Thinking about Thanksgiving

By Jordyn McCulleyNovember 25, 2022

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Editor's note: The following commentary was provided by Maj. Andrew Arrington, Pastoral Care coordinator, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson.

“To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of almighty God.” – Abraham Lincoln (1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation)

FORT CARSON, Colo. — In a New York Times article, Is there a problem with Thanksgiving?, Pamela Paul suggests that Thanksgiving “is a holiday about shared gratitude.” If your Thanksgiving Day was anything like mine, you not only relished festive family recipes, but also a time of sharing the many blessings enjoyed over the past year.

According to the historical record, the Pilgrims observed a day of thanksgiving to honor God for blessing them with food, shelter and survival. Today’s American family is more likely to express thankfulness for a different set of blessings: a new car, a transportation system that delivers regional culinary delights across the country or globe, the release of the next Marvel move, the ability to gather with family and friends due to relaxed COVID-19 concerns, and a host of many others.

Pamela Paul states that “even for us secular humanists, Thanksgiving offers a moment to appreciate whatever good this year wrought, even if by accident or chance.” But Paul’s sentiment is a shallow reflection of Abraham Lincoln’s presidential proclamation “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Set against the devastating backdrop of the American Civil War, the proclamation reminds us that thankfulness is always in season, even during life’s most difficult challenges.

President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation identified a key distinction about thanksgiving that escapes many: “thanksgiving for” versus “thanksgiving to.” This past Thursday, many of us announced gratitude for the “good this year wrought” but missed the opportunity to express thankfulness to the source of the blessing. Lincoln was concerned that “we are prone to forget the source from which [these bounties] come.” Therefore, he proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving that we might not be insensible to and unthankful for the “ever-watchful providence of almighty God.”

If you haven’t, consider offering thanks to the one responsible for the good this year has wrought: your boss, your parents, your co-workers, your friends, our governmental leaders, and yes, the “ever-watchful providence of almighty God.”