Gratitude can be a sort of self-centered thing, can't it? I am pleased with something, and so I am feeling grateful. I send a thank you note or smile at you because I am pleased.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, originated as something deeper. A speaker pointed out, Sunday, that the French word for gratitude is reconnaissance which quite literally means to recognize, and this is exactly what George Washington was talking about in his declaration that Thursday the 26th of November 1789 be a national day of Thanksgiving.
The President today could write the same declaration and it would be relevant—Washington speaks of peaceable government, protection in war, plenty; he even thanks God for “the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge”. Almost sounds like Washington had the Internet . . .
Anyway, point being. This definition caught my attention. To recognize. This is the gratitude I want to teach my children. I want them to recognize not only their day-to-day conveniences but the blessings of freedom and peace and knowledge that are the foundation of life as we know it. I want them to recognize the infinite cost of those blessings. The blood and sweat of their forefathers. The mercy of God and the life of his Son.
Thanksgiving is part of what makes a nation Zion, according to Isaiah. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, Thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." Can you imagine the thanksgiving we will raise when the day comes that we live in a Zion society, when we are of “one heart and of one mind and there are no poor among [us]” and we understand the road it took to get there?
I read CS Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” today for the first time. (Seriously! I have to admit I’m feeling a little shortchanged here—how, in seventeen years of schooling have I never before come across this?) I’m reading it thinking, YES, that’s exactly right! If I had read this three months ago I wouldn’t have had to write that Lucinda post—I could have just posted a link to Lewis because he says the same thing, only with infinitely more eloquence and clarity.
And I’m thinking what else is out there? There have been and are so many great thinkers and writers that even with all the reading I do, I could overlook something like the “The Weight of Glory” and never know it.
Forget glory! I am bowed double under the weight of my own ignorance—by the price of my naïve twenty-first century existence!