You don’t have to go far to hear Americans express their frustrations these days. I have heard people say: our current system is “unfair”, corporations are “greedy”, that college loans are an unreasonable burden and should be “forgiven” (Oh how I wish mine where 😆 ), that a job is a “right”, that we’re “entitled” to free health care. To me , its not not unlike hearing children demand something they want, telling their parents, a sibling or a playmate: “Gimme”!
I’d love to condemn those who use those words. But I would have to condemn myself too. I sometimes fall into the trap, thinking: “this is unfair, I DESERVE better“. To be sure, the entitlement mentality is nothing new but what is new is how often it is expressed in public and how little our public discourse is colored with words of thanks and appreciation – not only for what we have but with a recognition that we often don’t deserve much of what we have been given.
Thanksgiving is a great reminder for us to reject the “I deserve” mentality. I think we can find some clues in reading the history of Thanksgiving and the mentality of those who gave it to us. Learning from them what motivated them to celebrate it and and adopting some of their perspectives on why we ought to be thankful in the first place. It may be key to ridding ourselves of the “entitlement” mentality we carry around.
In 1863, during the Civil war (a time when many might not of felt all that thankful), President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving into a National Holiday. As part of his proclamation he said: “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 voice by the whole American people.”
President George Washington began the Thanksgiving proclamation tradition, based on Plymouths 53 surviving colonist celebration of their first successful harvest in 1621. It would be followed by several other presidents. Washington started the practice in October 1789. He wrote, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation”
President John Adams wrote a thanksgiving proclaimed in 1798: “As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him… I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift”
What do you think?
A good list of historical proclamations, including Thanksgivings, can be found here:
1. Am I wrong? Do you think people are just as thankful now as in our countries past?
2. Does the increase in secularism account for the change in our “entitlement” mentality?
3. How will do your express thanks daily?
My friend Clark had a good Thanksgiving practice. It can be found here: