“Who is going to say thanks?” That may be a question asked at the dinner table before the big meal this Thanksgiving. After the blessing is said, folks can get down to the serious business of stuffing themselves with all the good food of their Thanksgiving feast.
And giving thanks is the original idea behind the holiday. We all can remember from grade school the story of how the Pilgrims celebrated the autumn harvest the first Thanksgiving with the Wampanoag Indians. There were days designated by presidents to give thanks during the early days of our country. But it was not until 1863 that Thanksgiving became an official U.S. holiday.
It was in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation stating that the last Thursday in November would be set aside as a national day of Thanksgiving. He exhorted the American people to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
In the middle of all the food, family, football, and friends, it’s easy to forget what the holiday is all about. And the thanks we give shouldn’t be limited to the blessing before the meal. Because we should be grateful for much more than a big meal. And gratitude is always appreciated by the recipient.
I’ll bet there’s a person, or persons, in your life that you are grateful for. They may have been an important part of your life for your whole life. Or they may have been there for a short time, but played an important part during a crucial period during your life. And you are grateful. But have you told them?
But you are thinking, “But they know I appreciate them for everything they did.” But do they really know? We’ve all, at one time or another, have felt unappreciated. Now the other person may have really appreciated what you did, but they didn’t tell you. And unexpressed gratitude is often felt as ingratitude. We see ingratitude in kids, and work hard to teach them to say Thank you.” But what about us adults?
A few years ago, I wrote a couple of short letters to individuals who played important roles during crucial periods in my life. Even though it was many years before, I wanted to tell them I appreciated them for what they did for me during those times. One of the advantages of writing this column these past years is that I have had the opportunity to use it to publicly acknowledge people who have positively impacted my life. It’s been a way to say, “Thank you.”
A couple of weeks ago, I saw an old picture on Facebook of Clement School. It was where I went to school from the first grade (no kindergarten back then) all the way to high school graduation. Clement was a small school, and didn’t have all the resources of other larger schools. (We only had around forty students in my graduating class.) But we had good, caring teachers, capable leadership, and a supporting community. Because of that, I think I was just as ready for what was ahead of me after graduation as students from much larger schools. So, here’s another opportunity to say, “Thank you.”
During the upcoming holidays, you will probably see people who were there for you. They may have given you an encouraging word at just the right time. They may have given you some money to help you out, knowing that they probably wouldn’t get it back. They may have stood up for you when others didn’t. Or they may have been there for you, day in and day out, for years, to support you on your journey through life.
You appreciate them. You really do. But gratitude unexpressed is often felt as ingratitude. You don’t want them to feel that way. So, this Thanksgiving, say “Thanks!”
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org