It is late on Thanksgiving night. The food that took hours and hours to prepare was eaten within half an hour. It took longer for us to put away the leftover food, clear the table, and do the dishes than it took to eat the food. Why do millions of Americans go to such trouble for such a short period of time? The answer to this question can be answered by the comments of several former Presidents of the United States as reported by the editorial board at The Deseret News.
President Abraham Lincoln was “in the middle of the slaughter and tragedy of a grueling Civil War” when he paused and observed that the year 1864 “has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He noted that the population of the nation had been increasing even though there were many dying in the war.
Not long after Washington was attacked and the White House burned, President James Madison “declared a day of thanksgiving. He showed no bitterness when he offered thanks for “all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood that American soldiers were dying in the war and Americans at home were suffering while supporting the soldiers. Yet he suggested in 1944 “a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas.” He continued by encouraging “every man of every creed go to his own version of the scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.”
General George Washington prayed when his soldiers were suffering at Valley Forge, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower prayed for his soldiers as they prepared to invade Europe on D-Day. Both generals knew that God could help their missions to be successful.
These great men understood that humility, gratefulness, and reliance on God brings power. Americans are at their best when they are humble and grateful. We need only to look back on September 12, 2001, the day after terrorists hijacked four airplanes and flew them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the ground in Pennsylvania.
This is the reason why Americans go to great effort, time, and money to gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day even though the actual meal may be short in duration. The very act of observation of a day of Thanksgiving brings blessings from heaven We humbly acknowledge our weaknesses before Heavenly Father and plead for His continued blessing upon our nation.