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Mere Thanksgiving

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

Some ideas are so simple and yet so profound that we must be reminded of them repeatedly. One such idea is the concept of gratitude, being grateful for the obvious as well as the subtle.

So many of the things that we should appreciate come to us without any action or effort on our part. The event of our birth, the country of our heritage, the loved ones who care for us, our mental, physical and spiritual attributes-all of these things must be noticed to be fully appreciated.

Thanksgiving seems to be an appropriate time to acknowledge and emphasize those objects of gratefulness that escape the fleeting thoughts of our daily routines.

In reflecting upon the first Thanksgiving, we recall that the participants had undergone terrific hardships in their migration to their new homes. Having sailed for nine weeks on the open seas, they finally arrived in America. The first winter they faced was extremely harsh, and they were unprepared for the multitude of challenges they would encounter. When spring finally arrived, only half of them had survived. Misfortunes continued for many years, yet they were grateful for the blessings of the Almighty during those difficult times. They possessed and cultivated a true "spirit of thankfulness."

A thankful spirit is a prerequisite to all virtues. Happiness eludes those who have not discovered its unassuming elegance. The chasm between one who takes things for granted and one who receives with a spirit of gratitude is what distinguishes tranquillity from melancholy.

The ordinary often contains that which is precious. Its value is sometimes neglected until it is gone. Recognition of the things for which we should be grateful is not a static activity. Rather, it is a truly dynamic process, an integral part of complete living.

Still, the objective for our lives is something beyond mere happiness. The objects of our gratitude all appear pale and lifeless when compared with the most inestimable item of worth and desirability in our lives. It is one that, unfortunately, is overlooked in the modern interpretation of Thanksgiving. It is the unfathomable endowment our Creator has chosen for us, that two thousand years prior, through a sacrificial act beyond human understanding, we were made suitable for His service. This grant comes to us, not because we are worthy or meritorious, but because of a holy magnanimity. This is the ultimate object and greatest end of all gratitude.

May you always cultivate that precious spirit of gratitude in your lives, and may you and your families have a joyous and blessed Thanksgiving.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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