One of the most remarkable things about our National Day of Thanksgiving is that it grew out of adversity and hardship. No one could have faulted the Virginia colonists or the pilgrims of the early 17th century if they had chosen to declare a day of mourning. After the severe losses they sustained, there was every reason for sadness, bitterness, and dejection.
Almost 250 years later, it was in the midst of our bloody and devastating Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln formally declared an annual National Day of Thanksgiving. Again, had he chosen to declare a National Day of Mourning instead, who could have faulted the president?
It’s the kind of choice we all face from time to time. We might be overwhelmed at work, anxious about a loved one, grieving over a loss, angry about a betrayal, or worried about a diagnosis. And in every case, our responses to the challenges and difficulties of this life can contribute to an upward swing or to a downward spiral, both for ourselves and for the world around us.
All of this reminds me of something the evangelical pastor Chuck Swindoll once said:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string that we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.
There are no gifts to be exchanged today, no shopping to do. Sure, some might watch a little football or a parade. But the main agenda for today is simple. Choose gratitude. Even if you are facing some significant stress or adversity, ponder reasons to be thankful. And then, let your gratefulness show forth not only with your lips, but in your life. Who knows what cascade of events, what upward swing, will follow? God bless you.