Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Nov 18, 2016

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we have a lot to be thankful for, and Thanksgiving is a great day to reflect upon all those blessings that we either take for granted or simply just don't notice.

Most of us no longer have to battle harsh weather, wild beasts, rampant disease, debilitating hunger, or aggressive and deadly attackers. If we were transported back in time to face the obstacles the original settlers had to deal with--most of us would probably not be able to rise, face, and succeed against such a physical and mental challenge.

Next time you're fretting over your many "first world problems", remember that America was settled and populated by tough people with solid values and a hard work ethic. This new land was not a lush paradise with 5-star accommodations waiting for the settlers. Those remarkable folks often endured journeys lasting two to four months aboard ships that, if inanimate objects could dream, would be the worst nightmares of today's modern cruise ships. No personal butlers, 24-hr ice cream and pizza parlors, affable cruise directors, or nightly fireworks on these ships!

But that was only the beginning. Once they arrived here, the weather was harsh, native Americans were not all friendly; modern infrastructure was nonexistent, disease was rampant and there were a shortage of the skilled labor that was desperately needed to survive in a new and uncharted land. There was no government, army, or any other system in place that took care of them or furnished provisions. Faith, hard work, and resolve were their only defense against death, and sometimes, even that was not enough.

Over one third of the original Jamestown, VA settlers who arrived in 1607 perished and were unable to celebrate their first anniversary in the new land. In Massachusetts, over half of the pilgrims who settled Plymouth died shortly after arriving in 1620. In fact, the first Thanksgiving feast is attributed to those Plymouth settlers, when they--in 1621--celebrated and gave thanks alongside the Wampanoag Indians for a successful autumn harvest that would see them through the winter.

Though those original settlers could never have imagined it, America was destined to become a great country through the hard labor, sense of community; enterprising spirit, love for family, and the moral values that came from their respect and belief in God.

Four hundred years later, our country has not yet reached its full potential, and we must keep working hard toward getting it closer to its destiny. Some say every generation has it easier than the one before it, but yet it always feels so hard when it's your own generation that's going through its "growing pains". Our current growing pains may indeed feel crippling, but remember that growing pains are necessary for growth.

In modern day America, unemployment, poor education, mental health, drug addiction, and violent crimes committed by members of our own community are but a sliver of all the very real and powerful demons we as a society have to deal with on a regular basis.

In conversations we say things like, "I really don't know what's going on one cares for anyone anymore...people only care about themselves...people don't care about anybody or anything--not even themselves!"

We don't know what the solution to these problems is--or whether there will ever be one--but I know it can't hurt to start treating each other with a little respect. Give yourself two or three full seconds before you simply lash out in response to a perceived insult or slight. Smile. Work hard. Be honest.

Like Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All", I believe that children indeed are the key to our future. Let's teach and show our kids the joy of giving and helping--let's instill a thirst for charity in them. Give them rules and provide constructive [not destructive] criticism when they have strayed from those values. Do not deny them of their religious faith. Let them fail so they can realize what to do differently next time. To you, it may feel like one changed life is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but let's start small and then see what happens. I'm thankful to still have hope.

This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your family and friends, share a special blessing at meal time...just like those original settlers did. If no one says one around the table, be bold and offer one--I doubt anyone will object. Or perhaps you'll recite a quiet one, echoing softly within your heart but screaming loudly through your actions!

Look, whether we believe in God, Yahweh, Allah, Karma, The Force, or nothing at all; we are all human and can certainly feel and express gratitude for all the good things that exist in our lives, as well as convey concern and hope for those who are battling demons much more powerful than our own.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this.