A Thanksgiving Reflection

thumb times;”>by Gregory J. Welborn

story times;”>There are no shortages of tragedies and crises in the world, doctor and this Thanksgiving week offers no exception. But, equally so, there are always many things for which to be thankful, and this Thanksgiving demands no departure from that comforting reality.

Anyone who honestly ponders for a moment what we have here must inevitably be struck by how bountiful a country we have. Its blessings defy complete categorization and certainly exhaustive enumeration. Whether we look at the material, spiritual, political or economic realms, God’s hand still seems steady upon our helm and His grace as magnanimous as it is unwarranted by anything we have done to earn it.

We are all subject to the limitations of our own imposed boundaries; we get into habits and see so easily what we always have seen, and do not see as easily what is beyond those borders. Someone who might take a slow and thoughtful trip across our land – starting from where it all began and heading west– would be struck by the lushness of the eastern forests; the power of that historical, and current, engine of commerce, the Mississippi, the vastness of the breadbasket on our plains, the majesty of mountain peaks which inspire, even as they descend to deserts which intimidate, and then lastly the imagination and inventiveness which emblemizes our west. Each of these regions in succeeding periods hosted pioneers which chose to push their boundaries and tame the vast physical and intellectual landscapes which lay before them.

pilgrimsOurs is a nation started by Pilgrims, people who sought the freedom to worship our Creator and accepted the overwhelming challenges which an untamed, hostile new world posed, but who, in rising to that challenge, started something which is not yet finished. They, and those who have followed, tamed, cultivated and harvested not just great food stores for themselves and the world, but also a belief in, and tradition of, political equality and economic freedom, which to this day are unmatched anywhere else in the world. And in furtherance, if not undeniable proof, of their beliefs, they have from one generation to the next welcomed those who would follow and immigrate to this great land. Ours is not a closed culture, restricted only to those who have deep roots or the correct last name of a fore-bearer. Ours is a culture which tells the downtrodden who have a dream and perseverance to pursue it that the future can be theirs.

And so the future is ours! For, as great as has been our past, and as overflowing our present, the future is filled with more promise still. America’s best days truly lie before her. We haven’t crested, and we are certainly not in decline. We have our problems – our pauses, if you will – but these are common to all great movements of forward progress. The path is never easy or without its challenges. The optimism of our best leaders, and of our pioneers, has always been sufficient to rally the rest of us to a future no matter how dark the present has seemed.

This is still the case today. Despite our best efforts – and they have been tremendous – we have not removed the scourge of war from this world or the desperation of poverty, nor have we achieved perfection in the implementation and practice of our best principles. We still fall short; this is why God’s grace will always be unearned. Even as we strive ever forward toward the perfections in which we believe, we all acknowledge in our hearts that perfection will not be ours in this life. We simply remain thankful to a God for the opportunity he provides here in this great, vast country, for the love he showers upon us, and for the hope He offers.

As short as we may fall from the perfection of our ideals, the fact that we still hold to those ideals, to the belief that we can make further progress toward them, rather than to grow cynical and retreat in resignation, is a sign of the spirit of that God, the Creator. He is not a mean God; He is not a pessimistic God; He is not a God of death. The God who prompted our earliest Pilgrims to make that hazardous journey and who watched over those succeeding generations of pioneers is the same God who loves us and spurs us onward. Belief in Him, for all those who properly understand it, is belief in a good future. It is in such belief that cynicism and pessimism die.

autumnquoteAnd so today, despite our problems, our tragedies, and our crises, so many of us can remain thankful, continuing a pattern well-taught. In the midst of a brutal winter in a new land, the Pilgrims were thankful for what lay ahead. Under the burdens of tyranny from the crown, the founders were thankful for what lay ahead. Under the yoke of slavery and the self-destruction of civil war, slaves and those who sought their freedom were thankful for what lay ahead. Under the cloud of world war, the generation called to fight were thankful for what lay ahead. Now it is our turn. As I look around, I see ample signs we have learned the lesson well, and none that we are wavering. We remain a generous people in a bountiful land under a loving God, and we are thankful.

I wish every reader a wonderful Thanksgiving, but more importantly, a renewal or strengthening of that most powerful of traits – gratitude. Without it, the most ostentatious life is still empty. With it, even the simplest life remains fulfilling.

Gregory J. Welborn is a freelance writer and has spoken to several civic and religious organizations on cultural and moral issues. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 3 children and is active in the community. He can be reached [email protected]/5l.com

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