Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.


-Henry Ward Beecher


This we know.  The pilgrims came across the seas, endured great hardships, in their voyage as well as in their new home.  In the midst of their struggles, aid came from the natives of the strange New World, a people with whom they had nothing in common, and with no reason or obligation to help them.  Yet, the help came across the racial, cultural, language and religious barriers.  In gratitude, the pilgrims reached back across those same divides, and welcomed into their homes for a feast of thanksgiving those they had first seen as savages.  And so happened a uniquely American event, where two peoples who had no language, no traditions, and no formal faith in common, came to be in communion.


Whatever happened after that day, whatever followed, the wars and betrayals, the terrible sorrows and endless trails of tears fed by the greed and ignorance of those that came after; beyond all that, the idea of that day still lives on more than three centuries later.  For always, as persistent as man’s violent and selfish ambition, there has also been that unyielding human reach for freedom and truth, a just peace, and on more sublime occasions, for the compassion that stubbornly, even in lonely anonymity, insists to extend its love to strangers.  So, we humans, even in our corrupted state of imperfection, see the good and the noble, recognize it, admire it, and honor it.  We, members of the fractious human race, occasionally glimpse a ray of the light that comes from the better side of our conflicted heart, from that part of the human soul that steps forth and chooses, for no worldly gain at all, to suffer, sometimes to lay itself down, for the good of another; and we, half blind and half deaf, inevitably preoccupied with the travails of our lives, try to remember it.


Today we stand on the shoulders of giants that were no bigger than ourselves.  But, we are not Christians facing the mouth of a lion or the self-appointed inquisitors of Spain.  We are not Africans in the cruel galley of a slave ship bound for the New World.  We are not Jews, stripped of everything we have ever had and everyone we have known, headed for a chamber of death.  We know that, but for minor hardships, we are a free people, and we are grateful for that.  And, we understand that we did not arrive at this place on our own.  We look back, and recognize all those fellow human beings who came before us; who learned, grew to be better people, and created the place we call home.  On our better days, we will try to be like them.


But always we are thankful to them, and will always remember them. 


Continued next column >



>Continued from previous column



A Prayer for a Common Faith


In the midst of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt, delivered a speech where he quoted a prayer written for the United Nations, on our common faith as human beings:


Grant us the wisdom and the vision to comprehend the greatness of man's spirit, that suffers and endures so hugely for a goal beyond his own brief span. Grant us honor for our dead who died in the faith, honor for our living who work and strive for the faith, redemption and security for all captive lands and peoples. Grant us patience with the deluded and pity for the betrayed. And grant us the skill and the valor that shall cleanse the world of oppression and the old base doctrine that the strong must eat the weak because they are strong.


…We are all of us children of earth - grant us that simple knowledge. If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed. If they hunger, we hunger. If their freedom is taken away, our freedom is not secure. Grant us a common faith that man shall know bread and peace - that he shall know justice and righteousness, freedom and security, an equal opportunity and an equal chance to do his best, not only in our own lands, but throughout the world. And in that faith let us march, toward the clean world our hands can make. Amen.


In this season of harvest and thanksgiving, of shared remembrance, when the light of the sun grows soft and the forests fall asleep, let it be quiet and still in grateful reflection of all who have come before you, and all you have today; let Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving, and afford others the chance to do the same.


On this and all Thanksgivings, may you too be remembered in gratitude, and may you always be blessed with the happiness of remembering all who have loved you.


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First published on Thursday, November 26, 2009.  Re-published since every fourth Wednesday of November.








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