A Guest Post from Abraham Lincoln
As we celebrated Thanksgiving this year, I realized that true gratitude does not blossom in times of ease. True gratitude, a true spirit of thankfulness, blossoms under fire. Not that we would celebrate and give thanks for sickness, broken relationships, financial hardships, or losses in and of themselves. But we would, as truly thankful people, find something to be thankful for in the midst of hardship. We would recognize the rich blessings we have even in the midst of difficulties. Interestingly, long before computers, blogs, and twitter posts, Abraham Lincoln wrote a short proclamation calling the United States to thanksgiving and setting apart the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. It was 1863; the Civil War continued to drag on. Citizens and families had witnessed the devastating battle and immense carnage of Gettysburg earlier that year. The threat of foreign involvement in the war loomed in the minds of our leaders. The nation remained at war. In the midst of this chaos and pain, Abraham Lincoln called for Thanksgiving. Consider his words with me:
“The year that is drawing toward its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”
I know that Thanksgiving has passed for this year; but maybe, in the midst of our current financial stress, broken families, fatherless children, and personal losses, our families and our nation would benefit from giving heed to Abraham Lincoln’s words once again…not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day.