Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a day when all Americans should count their blessings and give thanks. Many Americans join with others for a special holiday of family, friends, food, and fun. Numerous Americans travel at great expense of time and money to be at their family gatherings. My children are scattered, but two of them will come to spend the day with me. We will have a joyful time that will be diminished only by the fact that there are many family members missing.
Yet, there are some Americans who do not celebrate Thanksgiving because they consider the celebration to be “controversial” with a “contentious history.” They believe that Thanksgiving is “a holiday steeped with cultural appropriation” that does not tell the true history of early America. Some of these people say that the day should be considered as a “national day of mourning” or “atonement” rather than a day for giving thanks. I am saddened that such people cannot see the benefit of showing gratitude and expressing thanks for their many blessings.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing history and the historians that wrote it. The records are always kept by those who won the conflicts, and historians seldom write history from the viewpoint of those who lost. No historian is completely without bias – not even those who look on the dark side. However, a good historian strives to see as much as possible of both sides of the story. I personally would like to hear the true history of the United States – history as it really happened and not history colored by culture, politics, or selfishness. However, I believe that all Americans should take a day to count their blessings and express gratitude for them.
The act of acknowledging our blessings and expressing gratitude is critical in overcoming problems and becoming better individuals, families, groups, or nations. Then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with his wife Harriet, were attending a temple devotional in St. George, Utah. In fact, they were the invited speakers at the event.
President Uchtdorf spoke about gratitude and took questions when he finished speaking. One woman asked an discerning question: “What is it that we need to have in order to grow, to become, to be able to handle the burdens, problems, and trials we have in this life?” He answered with one word, “Gratitude.” He then elaborated on the subject by sharing four personal insights.
1. Gratitude expressed can overcome desires to consume and possess.
Sometimes people feel that having things is equal to being someone. But gratitude for the simple things of life soothes the mind from the obsession of possessions, fills the heart with joy, and infuses the mind with well-being. Gratitude destroys materialism.
2. Gratitude has the capacity to release us from greed and envy.
Gratitude keeps our heart soft and broken and our spirit contrite. Gratitude helps us receive love and give love; it brings thanksgiving for all things and makes what matters most the most important, for gratitude understands.
3. Gratitude is an emotion.
Emotions are often mercurial in one’s life. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that makes rational decisions regardless of our emotions. We often need cortical override – logic over emotion – to behave in a moral and civil manner. We must be careful not to be subject to our negative emotional feelings during those times when we don’t care about life. To make gratitude a power, we must make it part of our character.
4. Gratitude can become a constant source of strength to others and ourselves.
Gratitude has no place for a self-defeating attitude. Gratitude has no place for being a pessimist about our life’s lack of perfection. Gratitude helps us not only endure unbearable situations but also gain appreciation from the experience. We can uplift and nourish others.
Many families have a Thanksgiving tradition of giving each member of the group an opportunity to express gratitude for their blessings. This is a good tradition to have on our national day of expressing gratitude. However, I hope that Thanksgiving Day is not the only day when we express our gratitude. Being grateful for what we have is a good habit to develop because it helps us to be more positive about life in general. It brings more satisfaction, hope, and joy to our lives. I hope that you will take time to express gratitude for your blessings even if you do not believe in celebrating the national day of Thanksgiving.