Thanksgiving and President Lincoln

November 19, 2019 by

By John Schorling

Thanksgiving will be here again soon. It is a time that promotes pausing to take stock of those things we appreciate and are grateful for.  Like many people, I learned the origin story of the pilgrims’ Thanksgiving in grade school.  However, I only recently discovered that Thanksgiving was not established as a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln did so in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War.  Even in that time of hardship and sacrifice for many, Lincoln believed there were reasons to give thanks,  and he also acknowledged “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged”  

Many of us get together with friends or loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, and the focus may be more on food and football than on giving thanks.  We might even feel that we have little to be thankful for given our circumstances. Yet the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the middle of the Civil War suggests Lincoln felt this was worthwhile to do despite the ongoing conflict that had affected so many.  His example shows that regardless of the difficulties we face we can still intentionally take time to express gratitude, either to ourselves or with others, for what we do have.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn has said, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter how ill or hopeless you may feel” (from Full Catastrophe Living). We might also follow Lincoln’s example and use this time as an opportunity to express compassion for those who are suffering, perhaps finding some small way we might be of service to others. Proclamation of Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for many things, including all the people who choose to participate in the Mindfulness Center programs.  It is a joy and a privilege to be able to interact with so many others who are interested in learning more about the simple but not easy practice of “intentional present moment nonjudgmental  awareness with kindness”.  And I am confident if we all practice kindness and compassion for ourselves and others this Thanksgiving that our efforts can decrease the suffering in the world at least a little.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings