“. . . give thanks in all circumstances . . .” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
In the fall of 1970, exactly fifty years ago, I was stationed in Fort Eustis, Virginia undergoing military training. When Thanksgiving Day rolled around, being too far from home to be with our families on such a brief holiday, several of us made reservations at a quaint restaurant in nearby Williamsburg. It was quite a lovely setting with white tablecloths, traditional Thanksgiving fare, and a quiet, friendly atmosphere. Now understandably we were all a little homesick, but instead of cheering each other up and enjoying our nice meal together we began to complain about our predicament of being in the army and away from our families. Soon our dinner party diminished into a pity party.
Strange, isn’t it, that a group of college educated young men with great futures, all from good homes, sitting in a lovely restaurant on a beautiful autumn day in one of our nation’s most delightful historic cities would have anything to complain about? Worse, most of us were either National Guardsmen or Reservists which meant our full-time military service would be brief compared to most. Why then were we so ungrateful, even resentful, about our circumstance? After all, it was Thanksgiving.
Now, here it is fifty years later, and we find ourselves once again, with COVID, facing the same predicament of being unable to join in our traditional family Thanksgiving gathering. The difference this time, though, is that over the years I have wised up – a lot thankfully. This year instead of being ungrateful and resentful over our forced family separation we will instead approach it with a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness for our many blessings. After all, it is Thanksgiving!
As we approach the final weeks of 2020, a year fraught with pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, political and social unrest, and economic upheaval, arguably one of the most challenging years of our lifetimes, how easy it would be for us to fall into that same trap of self-pity my army buddies and I fell into, and squander this opportunity to pause for a day, even a whole week, to consider and give thanks for our innumerable blessings. May we be reminded of the words often spoken by the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar who would famously encourage his audiences to live with “an attitude of gratitude,” which is to say, “give thanks in all circumstances.” After all, it is Thanksgiving!