The Cost of a Thankless Heart, The Importance of Being Grateful, and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation November 26, 2021
“Never in the history of man have so many had so much, and thought they had so little.”
This in my estimation is American life in 2021. By just about any measure of material well-being, Americans are fantastically wealthy compared to the vast majority of people alive in the world today and certainly at any point in world history. Yet, if our suicide rates, drug usage and reported mental health problems are any indication we are an increasingly unhappy people despite our abundant wealth. While many will point to increased income inequality as the culprit, today’s poor in this country are fabulously wealthy compared to most other countries and, again, any earlier time.
It’s almost as if there is more to life than material possessions. While there are many issues at the heart of our collective unhappiness as a country, I believe one of the root causes is that as a culture and as individuals, we have lost our sense of gratitude and have forgotten the source of our blessings. We live in a world with dueling ideologies where the worst of one side has made the pursuit of money (greed is good) a god that will somehow satisfy, while the worst of the other extreme has made an idol out of envy and jealously of anyone who has more than they do (regardless of their own blessings). Regardless of whether envy or greed, the result is feeling that you never have enough.
I am certainly not immune to this thankless attitude that seems to permeate our society. It is why I think having a national day of Thanksgiving as a country is such a potentially important day. Imagine if everyone focused on what they as individuals have for which to be thankful. Imagine if we actually acknowledged the source of these blessings as a country, instead of looking at what we don’t yet have or what someone else has that we don’t.
I realize that many of you may be going through trials that make you feel as if Thankfulness is unattainable for you or somehow you don’t need to be grateful. This is why every year I reread the Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, who did not allow the bloodiest war in American history from deterring him from giving thanks. In fact, I would guess that his willingness to recognize his (and this country’s) many blessings and their source, was likely the only thing that sustained him during some of the darkest hours in our county’s history.
For many of us, the best thing we could do for our mental health and for the well-being of those around us would be to cultivate gratitude and be the kind of people who are focused on the gifts we have received rather than the things we do not have. We compare our wealth to the titans of industry, our looks to the most beautiful in Hollywood and our athletic prowess to professional athletes. Meanwhile in the real world, we could simply spend any amount of time with real people in our own cities to realize just how blessed most of us are.
It is my hope that you have a happy and truly thankful Thanksgiving with family and friends.