When I look for inspiration, I often turn to the words of Ronald Reagan. Reagan could put the world in a perspective that made you proud, made sense, and gave a sense of belonging to something very special. While Reagan was an actor, the words he spoke bore the light of truth and came from his heart. I believe that Reagan could do this because he had faith. Faith in God, faith in the American people, and faith in the founders of our nation.
To me, that is what thanksgiving is all about. As a University student I admit that I have had my doubts about the Almighty from time to time as most of us do at one time or another as we walk the paths of life. But when I reflect upon the world, life, and family I find myself once again a firm believer in the Supreme Architect of the universe. I have been witness to miracles both great and small and I have seen the darker side of man and the evil that has flowed from it. I have seen small elements of His design in human physiology and I have looked upon the glories of nature and beheld the work of God.
For all of the troubles and sorrows of this world there are an equal number of joys and wonders and for that I am grateful because how could we ever know our blessings if we did not also know suffering? How would we ever appreciate our family and friends if we never knew the bleakness of being alone? Ultimately it is Lucifer who highlights the benevolence of the Almighty and illuminates the blessings of man though the light bearer would deny it out of spite and malice. How fitting that even in his rebellion he still accomplishes the designs of the Creator.
One does not need to see the internal structures of the world to have faith. When I was a boy my folks told me to worship God and I did so. Not because I knew God or because I found reason to believe or because I agreed with the dogma of religion, but merely out of simple obedience to my Mother. There were times I would much rather have been playing a game or watching TV rather than sitting in a hard church pew, but sit I did.
As I grew older I reflected often upon God. I read religious materials. I examined other faiths. I doubted as did St. Thomas and I returned as did St. Peter. A Southern Baptist would have called me a backslider, but the truth is that it is merely the way of men. We like our doubts almost as much as we like ourselves. What really separates us is our faith in something greater than ourselves and that there is an order to the universe imparted from the Almighty.
Our place within that universe is up to each of us to define for ourselves. That is why God gave His creation free will and what a magnificent gift it is that we possess. It is both our greatest blessing and our greatest curse depending upon how we choose to use it and it is that choice where the importance of faith dominates. Do we choose to love ourselves and our fellows and act charitably or do we pursue the path of evil and vice? The choice and consequences of that decision are ours.
What does faith have to do with Thanksgiving you ask? Much. I believe that without faith you cannot appreciate your blessings. Without faith the world is a dark and barren place. Why would anyone be grateful for that? While bad things do happen to good people it is faith that allows them to put their sorrows in context and opens their eyes to the richness and beauty of life that surrounds them and that is the ultimate source of American exceptionalism because faith leads inevitably to hope. Hope for a better life, hope for our children, hope for our neighbors, and hope for the world.
America began as an underdog. A colony of misfits and adventurers who sought a better life. We had to sweat and bleed to get it, but get it we did. The labors of our forefathers brought us unparalleled liberty and freedom and how can we not be thankful for that? By acknowledging the blessings that we have in our daily lives we remain humble before God and seek to extend our blessings to our fellows that they may have a better life. Thus does gratitude become the wellspring of love for our fellow man.
I have much to be thankful for in my life and I thank God for His blessings. I hope that you have much to be grateful for as well and I hope that you have a truly great Thanksgiving Day!