WITH work and school put on hold for a long Thanksgiving weekend, Americans are ready to ... what? Wrestle with a turkey bone? Indulge in a marathon of football-gazing? Head to the mall for some early Christmas shopping?
No harm in any of that. And much good in special efforts to be with loved ones scattered around the country. Americans gather with their parents, children, cousins, aunts, and uncles; or maybe at the home of friends. Some might serve meals at a homeless shelter, or widen their sense of ``family'' by including new faces at the dinner table.
``Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house,'' the Bible's book of Malachi records, ``and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.'' Literally speaking, a tithe is a 10th part offered in gratitude. If we consider the giving of gratitude itself as a kind of tithe, we may have arrived at the most profound meaning of Thanksgiving - one that resonates with people around the world.
Whether or not we gather at a place of worship, each of us has many blessings for which to be grateful - health maintained or restored, the love of friends and family, and other personal needs met. Together we can rejoice in hopeful developments around the world: the presidential election in South Africa; progress, however bumpy, in the Middle East; democracy budding in Haiti; cease-fires in Northern Ireland, war avoided in North Korea. These forward steps - as well as myriad problems still to be addressed - will need our continued active interest and prayers.
In the United States, we can be grateful that democracy again has operated successfully. The recent elections brought dramatic changes in the political landscape. But the American grasp on democracy is so deep and strong that there is no question that the losers will step down from positions of power voluntarily and the winners will peacefully take office.
For some, change can bring fear for the future. Must the election have classes or groups who are ``losers'' as well as ``winners''? Americans place a high value on individual rights and individual responsibilities. But they also have an innate sense of fairness and compassion for the vulnerable. To fulfill the American dream, neither aspect of the nation's character can be ignored. Prayers for the new Congress can affirm that neither will be.