Thanksgiving Food for Thought

thanksgiving-turkey-dinner-by Caroline MacGillivray- The other day, I passed a seasonal sign that read, “What are you thankful for?” I rolled my eyes and thought, now is really not the time. Heading into the holiday season, every student’s book bag is a cornucopia of textbooks and binders, symbolizing an abundance that most would prefer to whittle away. While the holidays are a fleeting time of year, high school students are facing, at most, three and a half more years of the day-to-day grind. In an era where every other person tells you to “find yourself” (thanks, Oprah) or “lean in” (courtesy of  Sheryl Sandberg), self-reflection on my life–which at the moment consists of homework and standardized test prep–hardly seems like a break.

Feeling sorry for myself, I remembered that Thanksgiving is a holiday originally surrounded by toil. After the first Thanksgiving in 1621, there was no celebration the following year. Famine and crippling droughts threatened to make 1623 an even drearier year for the colonists; but, just as the pilgrims were feeling really down on their luck, a fourteen-day rain came, and the fall harvest was more fruitful than any since they had arrived. Massachusetts governor William Bradford called for a day of thanksgiving (which historians believe was actually at the end of July), and the proclamation blossomed into a new tradition, which became an official holiday for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1680.

If only idle people were supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving, it would not need to be a national holiday. It is a day born in the spirit of  hard work, from farming to physics. Like the pilgrims, we never know when our luck can change, for better or for worse. So, the last Thursday of November is a blessed twenty-four hours to do a little book-keeping of all the wonderful parts of life, including life itself. When all the paperwork is left for Monday, we can recognize the components that must be a given in order for us to function–health, food, and family–and so much else that, to the pilgrims, would have been gravy.

So this year, I have decided that everything is worth some thanks until proven otherwise–an idea as American as turkey on a Thanksgiving table.

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