Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself
At Thanksgiving, we reflect upon things that we are grateful for in our lives. Though it is a secular holiday, it is filled with hope, possibility and faith in a better tomorrow.
Thanksgiving is always about gratitude. One of the things we’re often most grateful for is being lucky enough to be able to see family and friends for the holiday.
By the time the plane landed at the New Orleans International Airport — not far from where I was raised near the Mississippi River as a child in Kenner, La., I could still see the remains of Hurricane Ida — the Category 4 storm that claimed more than 80 lives and caused a devastating amount of damage from the Gulf Coast all the way up to New England.
Physical Storms — hurricanes, tornadoes and even the occasional afternoon thunderstorms — have always reminded me of how precious life is and the importance of family and friendships in our lives. There have been times that my ability to feel grateful has been overwhelmed by the metaphorical storms of everyday life — loss of family, my favorite pet, a relationship, or a job and occasionally a campaign where things simply ran amok.
To get through all the torrential storms and the occasional flooding of raw emotions, I look forward to returning home where folks are simply happy to see you and hang out together.
There is something about being grateful that soothes pain and heals wounds and makes the unbearable bearable.
Seventeen other nations also observe Thanksgiving. Canada actually had their first Thanksgiving forty years before the Pilgrims gathered. They observe Thanksgiving in mid-October, though it’s not “as big a deal” as we make it. Same for the other 16 countries.
So, this Thanksgiving let us keep our national custom of being grateful regardless of our national or personal condition and return thanks for that which is good and noble and lovely in our lives.
Let me start with: I’m grateful Thanksgiving is centered around family. Of course, families gather during our other holidays. But their focus is observing the sacrifices of Memorial Day, or the service of veterans or of labor; or celebrating our independence or a new year.
Of all our holidays, Thanksgiving alone is most purely about family gatherings, about sharing what bounty we have and being thankful together.
Pew Research, the non-partisan think tank, just finished a poll of people in 17 of the world’s advanced economies, asking, “What gives life meaning?” In 14 countries, “more [people] mention[ed] their family as a source of meaning in their lives than any other factor.”
I am thankful this Thanksgiving, as in the others, for my family. Some, who I dearly loved, are no longer here: My father and mother and two siblings, just to mention a few. But, I remain grateful for their undying love that enfolds me and is with me every day. Not a day passes without my thinking of them. Not a day passes without thinking gratefully about my surviving brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and other close relatives.
Not every family has a warm and loving environment. I know there are some who dread Thanksgiving, precisely because it means the family will gather and an ugly argument will erupt.
But family doesn’t always mean blood relatives. I recall reading somewhere that Katharine Graham, the late publisher of the Washington Post, told her dear friend Mary McCrory, “When you lose your spouse, your friends become your family.”
What else can we give thanks for this Thanksgiving?
Let’s be thankful that the U.S. has enough vaccines to fully vaccinate everyone. It’s truly a modern miracle. For most of human history, we’ve been at the mercy of pandemic disease. Let us pray all will accept this life-saving protection.
We can give thanks for a resilient national spirit — essential to our endurance.
We can be thankful for a president, whatever his shortcomings, who is showing us that the way to national unity is mutual respect and cooperation on issues of common interest.
We can give thanks for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will help all Americans regardless of party, faith, race, or gender.
We can give thanks for the Climate Control provision in the bipartisan infrastructure Act. It will build jobs. It will combat inflation. It will reduce costs for the family, putting money back in parents’ pockets from energy savings.
Let us give thanks that despite worldwide inflation, we still have a harvest, however modest or bountiful, to share; that we have millions of Americans donating their time to feed the homeless and those families and individuals among our national family who are struggling.
It is a struggle. It’s not easy. Yet, we are on a slow, difficult journey to broad, sunlit uplands that includes all Americans.
We can give thanks that despite the severe tests of our collective faith as a nation, that most of us continue to look to a supreme spirit of goodness, kindness and decency as our trust and guide.
Finally, we can give thanks for Thanksgiving. It’s a wholesome holiday, a warm family holiday, a time to remind ourselves that whatever our circumstances, we are truly fortunate for the blessings we have.
Donna Brazile is a political strategist, a contributor to ABC News and former chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is the author of “Hacks: Inside the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.”