Regular readers of this blog know I like to pause during the holidays to say and give “thanks.” As another year comes to a close, it’s important to pause and reflect over the past year. Hopefully everyone reading this post is getting ready to spend time with family or friends.
It’s been a year of mass shootings, devastating fires and storms and political unrest. As I type this, the House is just wrapping up the impeachment proceeding against President Trump.
As lawyers, we know that many of our clients come to us in a time of need. Farmers struggling to hang on as they fight against big banks. Families fighting cancer and other deadly diseases because of defective medical products. Whistleblowers who feel helpless and trapped inside corrupt companies that punish workers who dare stand up for what is right. Retirees who were swindled out of their life’s savings. The list goes on.
The problems in our world don’t disappear on Thanksgiving. But let’s not forget the spirit of Thanksgiving and all that it stands for. Despite all the adversity in the world, we pause this time of year to find the positive things in life. Family. Friends. Hope.
When the original pilgrims came to this great nation, they were greeted with a welcome, not a wall. Let us embrace our diversity and find common ground as we work together to find solutions to our many problems.
This year I am reprinting a Thanksgiving message that appeared in the Daily Herald several years ago as well as the proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. It was Lincoln that officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday.
From the Daily Herald:
We all know people who tend to see the sorrows but seldom the joys, who tend to blame others for every misfortune while never accepting responsibility when things go wrong.
These are not just negative people. They are unhappy people.
To be sure, life isn’t always fair. It isn’t always easy. No one makes it through without some share of hardship, pain and injustice. That’s just an inevitable part of the journey.
But almost 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.’
If we could leave only one piece of advice for our children, that just might be it.
Well, let’s make it two pieces of advice and add this: Be grateful. Recognize all the blessings you have and give thanks for them. We aren’t owed any of it. All of it is a gift.
In the end, it’s not the blessings that make you happy; it’s the thankfulness.
We repeat those words on this Thanksgiving Day because we believe so strongly in the message.
We’re not going to kid here. Money brings luxuries and options and access that poverty withholds. Destitution imposes real hardships.
But the origins of Thanksgiving are steeped in hardship. Death and disease welcomed the Pilgrims prior to that first feast in 1621, and Abraham Lincoln established the holiday during a devastating civil war.
We know people of means who struggle despite their fortunes to find happiness. We know people beset by misfortune who nevertheless live their lives in joy.
If you want to be happy, look outward more, inward less. Recognize the kindness, the love, the good fortune, the glad tidings that surround you.
Every breath we take, every wonder we see, every hand we hold, every passion we feel, every curiosity we explore, every song we hear, every warm memory we hold, these are life’s gifts, blessings more valuable than fame or accomplishment or wealth.
And all of us, regardless of our circumstances, are rich with these things. Be glad of them. Appreciate them. Give thanks for them.
Thanksgiving rituals vary. But whether you celebrate the day alone or as part of a large gathering, whether you build your observance around a feast or football or shopping or a movie or some combination, reserve the time to take stock of these blessings and give thanks.
Do so not just today, but every day. Build thankfulness into the fabric of your life.
If you want to be happy, be grateful.
And from President Lincoln:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
It’s important to note that Lincoln penned his Thanksgiving message while the United States was at war with itself. No war has so devastated and torn apart our country like the Civil War yet Lincoln still found plenty to be thankful about.
Some of you reading this may be facing the biggest challenges of your lives. You are not alone. Be thankful for those that remain in the fight. Be thankful for the little things in life. Be thankful for the things that no one can take from us.
I close by offering my personal gratitude to our team, my family, my friends, colleagues in the fight for justice and you.
We are especially thankful for all of you, clients and readers of this blog alike. We are thankful to those that chose us as your partners in the fight for justice. And we thank you for sharing your hope, peace and joy.
We also offer a special debt of gratitude and thanks to our servicemembers worldwide who can’t be home this year with their families and friends. You are in our prayers.