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Gratitude is Happiness Doubled by Wonder

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher, The Anderson Obsever

With less than six weeks remaining in 2018, we take time to celebrate Thanksgiving, that is uniquely American holiday. According to a recent story in the Boston it has been marked, in various forms, on this continent since the late 1500s. 

Abraham Lincoln finally made Thanksgiving an official holiday, to be celebrated on the third Thursday of November, while in the middle of the Civil War in 1863. His proclamation both reflected the long-observed intent of those who had gone before him as he wrote the holiday would be a time to: "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." 

The noble purpose of Thanksgiving Day being set aside to praise God for his provision and express our gratefulness for his "deliverances and blessings" still hold a place for many of as we gather with family and friends, show what is best about us by serving those who lack even the most basic of needs. All across Anderson County today such groups as the Haven of Rest, Anderson Interfaith Ministries, the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Clean Start, the Good Neighbor Cupboard, plus churches too many to name here are turning away from the "national perverseness" of self interest, express their gratitude through kindness and generosity. 

Many families will gather around their tables today and ask each person to offer up a list of things for which they are grateful today. 

Meanwhile, so many in far-off lands will spend today day standing in long lines for rice or beans or a jug of clean water, as most of us here will eat from tables so full of food they can barely contain the weight.

The majority of us, though we may not have all the things we think we want, we have more than we need, and hopefully are sharing with those who do not. 

But even though in some ways Thanksgiving Day still holds true to the traditions, such as gratitude and demonstrations of such thankfulness through helping our neighbors, is it losing ground every year to a perverseness hardly imaginable when Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Day proclamation. It has become the time of year when America's lust for material goods expresses itself in ways far beyond simply people unleashing their minds to go on spending sprees. 

In the fever of holiday shopping and buying many gifts for those who often have little need, every year our culture chips away at and disrupts America's most traditional time for families to be together. The trend of opening stores on Thanksgiving Day for shoppers, with little regard to their employees who will miss their own family gatherings continues to grow. The irony is these workers are being asked to clock in so that others can also miss or leave their own family and friends to go shopping.

Black Friday starts a day early, Americans who work retail, and  already face growing pressure of long hours and generally below-average wages, are now being asked to forfeit one of their rare holidays, for "sales" that run counter the core idea on whicmyour prayers are with you.

For the rest of us, we can send a message to retailers who show such disregard to their workers by staying home today. We can shop tomorrow, but today we can send a message to those who think Thanksgiving is just another day to feed the cash register. 

And tomorrow, still full of turkey and gravy, we face the next holiday challenge of maintaining our grateful heart in a world so full of bright, shiny objects vying for our attention and our wallet.

The reward is a gift that needs no wrapping paper, ribbon or space under the Christmas tree. The research is conclusive that those who approach life with a sense of gratitude, have fewer mental and physical problems, live longer, exhibit less stress, have a stronger immune system, and even handle loss far better than those who do not live life with the recognition that they do indeed have a lot for which to be grateful.

How does a person get to that place, a place where gratitude is more than an occasional occurrence?  

The best place to start, according to one study, is to verbally acknowledge those things for which you are thankful every day. Not just today. Those in this study who wrote a daily gratitude list for one full year expressed the experience profoundly changed their lives. Stories of overcoming depression, lowered blood pressure, and even healing of relationships were common among those who finished the year-long gratitude list project.

So make your first holiday gift this year one for yourself. Commit to a daily practice of gratitude, verbal or written for the next 365 days. You won't be sorry.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote:  Thanks are the highest form of thought... gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

And that is my Thanksgiving wish to all this season as you give thanks today, that you will experience happiness doubled by wonder.

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