Today, our family joins with many others across the nation to pause and reflect on our many blessings. While not everyone will find himself or herself seated around a table with others, and though not every table will feature a turkey and “all the fixin’s,” every one of us can find something for which to be grateful.
It’s been a rough month for our family. I mused, during a past Thanksgiving, on how the small size of my family might have become the impetus to draw me into family history research—the loneliness of sensing the camaraderie among those in others’ extended families was somehow missing in our small circle of four. And yet, this Thanksgiving, our family is now even smaller as, one by one, those of the older generation take their place in “passing over to the other side.”
Though life is tenuous, and people’s lives—when it is all said and done—fleeting, there is the comfort and security of tradition to grant us the sense that we are somehow part of something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps the narrative of the Thanksgiving remembrance—no matter which version you espouse—is one of those traditions that binds us together as one national family. Just as family history becomes the glue to bind us closer to our extended families—those third cousins and beyond that we are delighted to meet online—aspects of our national history such as Thanksgiving are the cohesive factor that can give our nation a sense of unity despite our many personal differences.
This season, may the sense of gratitude overwhelm and redirect your personal compass.
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Above: oil painting, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," by American painter Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain in Australia, the European Union, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the artist plus seventy years.