(I posted this Thanksgiving holiday commentary several years ago.)
This Thanksgiving holiday we face constant reminders of our divisions and personal challenges. Disagreements extend from spats among family members all the way to violent conflicts between countries and religions to our own health and well-being.
But we should also be reminded that there exists a commonality among most people of the world and that is the practice of giving thanks. It is essential to all faiths and for maintenance of the human spirit.
Christians who need reminders of how and when to count their blessings are referred to First Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
As the Reverend Billy Graham says, “Even when life may be difficult, we should thank God for all He does for us—which we do not deserve.”
One of the mitzvahs given to Jews in the Talmud is to say 100 blessings each day. Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman describes these as meditative moments of appreciation that help individuals appreciate what God has given them.
“The truth is, how we view the world affects how we act in the world,” the Rabbi says.
The Quran tells Muslims that they must be grateful to Allah for everything, and thankfulness is never ending. “For should you try to count Allah’s blessings, you could never compute them,” reads Al-Nahl 16:18)
Muslims, like Christians and Jews, are also advised that if something bad should happen, be patient and do not lose faith because even adversity is a blessing.
Buddhists are taught that to be ungrateful is to be unworthy. “This ingratitude, this forgetfulness, is congenial to mean people… but the worthy person is grateful and mindful of the benefits done to him,” commands the Buddhist scripture.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria have mostly converted to Christianity or Islam, but some retain their traditional religious belief that transcendence is achieved through a virtuous life. There’s a Yoruba proverb that reads, “One upon whom we bestow kindness, but will not express gratitude, is worse than a robber who carries away our belongings.”
Giving thanks is not unique to religion. The American Humanist Association, which says its members believe “being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life,” posts options for Thanksgiving non-prayers to express thanks.
It reads in part, “may we all be grateful for all we have and (have) compassion for those without.”
Even amid the differences among all the people of the world, the concepts of gratitude and thankfulness emerge as consistent values. Author William Arthur Ward said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
Here’s hoping you will enjoy your holiday and, no matter what your faith or circumstances, find time to count your blessings.