This is the first year we have really gotten into teaching our son about the history behind Thanksgiving. He’s hooked. He loves reading about the pilgrims and Indians. He has some appreciation for the need for religious freedom that the pilgrims felt. The suffering felt that first winter affects him. But the thing he likes to read about most is the Indians.
I tend to be just like him in that. I have always appreciated the histories of the Native Americans. In fact, this week we are hoping to take him to see some traditional Indian dances while we are in New Mexico. He’s pretty excited.
As we think about this history, however, I can’t help but reflect on how we showed the Native Americans our appreciation for how they accepted us onto their land. Sure, the pilgrims held a great feast and they ate alongside their native friends, but as time went on more and more “white men” came that did not appreciate the support and friendship that had been given to the white man in the past.
How did we as an invading civilization show our appreciation to those without whom we would have never survived this continent? We drove them out. We killed them. And, eventually we corralled those that survived into “zoos” where they can live how they want (albeit in a much restricted area), and we can go observe their native rituals.
In my opinion, that is the saddest story of the formation of this great nation. They were thankful for survival, but they weren’t grateful for the people who helped them survive. In fact, they didn’t even see them as people.
In our generation today, we have a struggle ahead of us. As I watch the youth of today grow, I see the same ungrateful attitude. This generation thinks they are entitled to everything they have. This is much like how the white people thought they were entitled to the land of the Americas.
“Thank You” is a phrase that is a strain to say for many in today’s society. Even more difficult is trying to list all the blessings given to them by God. In fact, not only are they not grateful for what they have been given, but there is a continual lust for more.
As a parent I struggle with this attitude in my own children. We are trying to help them understand what it means to be grateful. We are trying to help them remember to be thankful to others. We are trying to help them to learn contentment in a time of prosperity. But it’s difficult. Even at their young ages, it seems as this ungrateful attitude is embedded in their DNA.
In light of all that, we now find ourselves at the time of year that is one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Each year I get to see family members I haven’t seen in a long time. I usually have a chance to meet new family members as well. Then we sit and feast on a bounty that God has provided.
We have an opportunity and a responsibility to ourselves and our children to take the opportunity this season to inspire a change of attitude. This is a great time to stop the attitude of entitlement dead in its tracks and start an attitude of gratitude.
Thanksgiving shouldn’t just be a holiday: it should be a way of life.
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
(Colossians 1:10-14 emphasis added)
This holiday season, may you start a tradition that happens every day. May you be grateful for every breath, and may you inspire that attitude of gratitude in those around you.
God bless you, and Happy Thanksgiving!