What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Do you feel you have been blessed this year?

It has been a pretty rough year for our country and our world. Many, many lives were lost in wars and natural disasters. The hurricanes displaced thousands of families, separating children from their parents and workers from their jobs. The earthquake and tsunami on the other side of the planet did incredible damage and slaughter.

The news is getting more and more frightening. A new flu may wipe us all out, they say. It’s just a matter of time before terrorists get to us. Planes aren’t safe. Boats aren’t safe. We aren’t safe. Thieves steal our dignity and our identity. And if we survive the outside forces of evil, we will die, instead, of heart failure or cancer.

It can be pretty depressing and that is just why I think Thanksgiving is so important. It causes us to pause, if only for a day, to reflect on what is right with our lives and our world.

The Pilgrims, who first celebrated Thanksgiving, had had a terribly rough year. Most of them had starved to death. Many more died from disease and Indian attacks. Those who survived paused during the time of harvest and gave thanks. They were thankful to be alive. When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a holiday, our country was deep in the Civil War, being torn apart and bloodied by opposing ideals and forces. He knew we needed to pause and think about blessings — even though they seemed few and far between.

Yes, it is important to stop and give thanks, even if the only thing we are thankful for is that we survived another year.

You see, it is at that moment that we begin to realize that there truly are many things for which to be thankful. We begin to think about the joy our loved ones give us. We begin to remember our home, our transportation, our jobs, our friendships, our kids’ successes in school, our clothing, our church, our daily bread. We are thankful for getting well when we were sick or for living another year with our sight and hearing intact.

And then it hits us: maybe life isn’t so bad after all. Maybe some good can come out of bad situations. Maybe there is reason to have hope. Didn’t that friend with cancer survive? Isn’t medicine moving forward? Doesn’t my faith give me hope in the future and the life to come?

Without hope, life would not be worth living, and being thankful reminds us of the hope we have. That’s why I think Thanksgiving is so important and why I am glad it’s a national holiday.

The secular forces may eventually try to stop Thanksgiving. After all, don’t we need to believe in God in order to be thankful to him? I guess you could be thankful to the evolutionary accident that brought you to life, but that doesn’t make much sense. I’ll give my thanks to the Creator, if you don’t mind — and even if you do.

I’m thankful for a cool place to lay my head in the summer and a warm place right now. I’m thankful for making my bills another month. And I’m even thankful that I was able to help the hurricane, tsunami and earthquake victims, even though it was only a small amount, because being able to help others is a privilege.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? I’m thankful for faith, hope and love. Sometimes that’s all we have, but it’s always all we need.

The Rev. Craig Harris is pastor at Montalba Christian Church and is employed as the Parent Involvement Coordinator for Palestine Independent School District. Contact Harris at http://www.sycamoretreepublishing.com

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