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Thanks Be to God

THANKSGIVING is associated with that which is good in America - the bountiful fruits of the earth, shelter and warmth, family and friends, freedom. It is a time, one hopes, that the commercial hurly-burly, the incessant clatter of daily life, can give way to an appreciation of those gifts of love and care that are not bought and sold, but yet are so crucial to our lives. Of course, these gifts are universal. The spirit of thanksgiving isn't bounded by a shoreline or a national border. Nowhere was this truer than in Berlin this month, where Germans from East and West were tearfully united after nearly 30 years.

In fact, changes in Eastern Europe make this a special thanksgiving. A year ago this season, no one anticipated a mass upswelling of democratic fervor in the East bloc. Such world changes demand a reverent giving of ``thanks'' by those of us already living in a free and open system.

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Nor, during turkey time, can those who live in even less fortunate circumstances be forgotten. Amnesty International reports the torture and ill treatment of people in 94 governments last year. Prisoners of conscience are held in 76 countries. Starvation continues. So does homelessness.

Americans are thankful for the peace, prosperity, and abundance of their native land. Yet it is important to remember that the original ``thanks givers'' - the Pilgrims - were not giving thanks for material well-being (they didn't have it), but for the right freely to worship the Creator of the heavens and earth. The first Pilgrims were giving thanks in spite of adversity. They had been thrown in prison in England; their houses watched. They left family to cross an ocean and live in a wilderness. The first winter, half died.

Yet, with the Indians, the Plymouth Colony gave thanks. (An early ideal of ethnic and racial relations too easily ignored.)

As Pilgrim William Bradford said, though they suffered, they were ``the Lord's free people,'' who in their mission hoped to be ``stepping stones unto others.''

That's worth a day of thanks.

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