2013-11-28 / Editorial

On a Personal Note

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
By Bob Raymond

In my own personal life I quietly celebrate Thanksgiving in a lot of different ways on a lot of different days. I also know for a fact that my wife, Anita, does the same thing in her own way, and probably as often, if not more. For many, many years my two biggest acknowledgements of gratitude have been, naturally, the days around the fourth Thursday in November, but also the days around the third Sunday in June.

The stories I could relate … the sentiments I could express … are the same that most of us would share when we stop and think of all our blessings. While it is unfortunately true that some people just seem to attract bad luck and misfortune, for most of us there’s plenty to be grateful for.

And for all of us there are these words to ponder, part of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in observance of the first National Thanksgiving Day in 1863: The year that is drawing to a close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. These bounties are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. 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 American people.

And so, while we accept and respect the different religious beliefs and traditions of all of us … yea, the nation of all of us, believers and non-believers alike, Abba, Buddha, Allah, The Force, God, Divine Providence, The Great Spirit and many other deities of different names or references or karma, as well as those of us without, many of us seem to subscribe to the concept of a beneficent higher power that we look to for favors and sometimes dutifully thank later for our blessings.

While some may cynically think that Thanksgiving Day was created by the Detroit Lions when they played a football game on that day in 1934, or maybe by Hallmark or even by Norman Rockwell and his Post magazine covers, the fact is all these things just added to the human aura of the celebration. Let’s not forget also that Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades began in 1924, long before the advent of television. Horse-drawn wagons for floats – maybe?

In the New World there are reports of the Spaniards observing a day or feast of thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565. Just imagine a time when the Hispanics were owners of this land and the English were the intruding aliens. They joined with the native Timucua Indians and ate bean soup for this occasion. In fact, it is said that the previous year the French Huguenots also observed a day of thanks with the same Indians in the same locale, le Jour de l’Action de grace. Vichyssoise anyone?

Traditionally we perceive Thanksgiving as a noble feast put together by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, led by their chief Massasoit, near Plimouth Plantation in 1621. You have to wonder if the Native Americans would be so welcoming had they known of the millions more Europeans heading their way.

But back closer to home and closer to this age and on a personal note, I have been privileged with working on Thanksgiving baskets for most of my life and to this day I am also associated with a local food pantry and a charitable meal giving group. I say ‘privileged’ as I have personally sensed, felt and heard the genuine gratitude of countless people, perhaps down on their luck, but getting a little help in providing food for themselves and their families. Privileged again, because of the hundreds of hugs and handshakes, the verbal ‘thank you so much … you just don’t know what this means to us’, all these things coming back annually, not to haunt but to heighten my own Thanksgiving, and realization of my own good fortune.

Wow.

Want to heighten your own Thanksgiving Day? Look around your dinner table and reflect on the meaning of those around you. Ask them each to disclose just one particular item that they are thankful for on this day. The Macy’s parade and Detroit Lions can wait for later.

Be thankful also that there are food pantries, soup kitchens and church groups to help your fellow humans in their time of need. They do it with volunteers doing the work that maybe you, at one time, said you should do. There are plenty of opportunities to support your local food pantry and soup kitchen.

Do support them often, but be careful. You also may get to feel the privilege.

Bob Raymond is an Old Orchard Beach resident and volunteer with The Raging Tide.

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