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Under God, the People Gather and Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time of unity. It is a time of gathering friends, family, and sometimes newcomers into your home. Somewhere along the way, America began to forget what the true meaning of Thanksgiving is. 


Last year, we were told that families should not get together because of the pandemic. This year, we are being told that some may not be able to afford Thanksgiving as a result of rising prices at the grocery store. 


And then there is the crowd that wants to cancel Thanksgiving altogether because of what they call an oversimplification of the history behind the holiday.  


The part that most of these cancel culture warriors miss is that Thanksgiving wasn’t just about the Colonists who landed at Plymouth. The focus was on more than the three-day feast they shared with the local Indian tribe.  


The meal in 1621 may have been the inspiration for how we celebrate today; however, Thanksgiving celebrations pre-date the Colonies. These celebrations didn’t originate with a large meal featuring a turkey and all the trimmings. They started as a way to give thanks to God for his blessings on the community.


Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln knew that when they each proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving during their respective terms. Both Presidents cited that the holiday was meant to “acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.” President Washington took it a step further and asked Americans to ask for forgiveness for their sins against their fellow man.  


President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. He did so to bring the country which was fractured by the Civil War back together. In the proclamation, Lincoln called upon Americans to include in their prayers a request for “the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it.” 


Thanksgiving is a time for us to heal. It is a time for families and friends to gather. It is a time to open your homes to new friends. It is a time to build community. It is a time to give thanks for the small things in our lives. 


Famed author Laura Ingalls Wilder made that point in a 1916 newspaper column. Wilder was reflecting on one Thanksgiving while growing up on the South Dakota prairie. In those days, the only way to get a turkey on the table was to go hunting for one in the wild. One year, her father had rushed into the house to get his shotgun in hopes of bagging a late-season goose. The excitement sparked an argument between Wilder and her sister. 


The two had begun arguing about which spices to include in the stuffing. When their father returned without a goose, Wilder had realized that it did not matter which spices would have gone in stuffing; she would have been thankful just to have the goose. 


It has been more than 100 years since Wilder wrote that column and families are still fighting over how to cook Thanksgiving meals. The point, which is just as relevant today as it was in 1916, is to be thankful for the small things. Do not let petty arguments keep you from enjoying the blessings right in front of you. 


What small blessing am I thankful for this year? That is easy. I am thankful to be spending my first Thanksgiving as a grandmother.  


I hope you all enjoy a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends. And may God continue to pour his blessings on South Dakota.