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Let Us Give Thanks

Let there be no doubt: As the World Trade Center towers crumbled to the ground, burying lower Manhattan in a suffocating blanket of dust and smoke, life as we knew it changed forever.

We became a nation understandably on-edge. Our naïveté about safety and security gave way to organized panic. Airport security was quickly heightened, gas masks flew off the shelves and the fear of further terrorist attacks loomed over us like a menacing storm cloud. A new era was ushered in.

Today, 14 months later, life still seems fragile, and we can no longer afford to be negligent and take life for granted. The tragedies on 9/11, horrifying as they are, prove that life, although bruised, remains a thing of beauty.

So in this season of giving thanks, let’s look upon life with unsullied eyes and focus on our blessings.

Better yet, let’s find a way to broaden this season throughout the year, mindful of our turbulent past, grateful for what we have now and ever hopeful for a peaceful and inhabitable future.

Angels Among Us

It would be difficult to breathe the word gratitude without envisioning the  New York City firefighters, police officers, construction workers and nameless volunteers who, with brave faces and heavy hearts, furiously searched through the wreckage at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania, desperate to find life and careful to recover the dead.

Their searches produced few encouraging results, but their efforts did not go unnoticed. As rescue workers journeyed to and from the site of the fallen towers, the streets were lined with grateful onlookers, waving signs of heartfelt thanks, all the while singing, cheering, weeping.

The rest of the country stood alongside these people in spirit. Cast in the darkest of shadows, the workers served as champions of light and hope. When the nation cried, these brave people dried our tears.

Although those tears continued to fall, this past summer they moved from anguish to joy as the ninth and final Pennsylvania coal miner was lifted from a flooded chamber. The rescue effort, which appeared doomed from the start, turned out to be a resounding triumph. Families of the trapped workers, and the country as well, rejoiced in their rescue.

In many ways, their survival took on a deeper meaning since 9/11. Life, in spite of that tragic day or perhaps because of it, has become an even sweeter gift—one we must no longer fail to appreciate, to share or to celebrate.

Now more than ever, it’s important that we recognize our blessings. As this uncertain era has proven, life is simply too valuable, too fleeting and too beautiful for us to sail through it blindly, failing to give thanks.

Look Closer

This Thanksgiving holiday can be the beginning of a new initiative in gratitude. When we wake in the morning, we should be grateful to have risen from a warm bed.

As we sit at the dinner table, eyeing the overstuffed turkey, take a quiet moment to remember the many in this country and far beyond who dream of meals this lavish, and then wake to empty stomachs.

Look deeper, beneath the surface. Instead of seeing the dated wallpaper in the kitchen or the furniture in the dining room that doesn’t quite match the new carpeting, be grateful to have a home to call your own. Many don’t. Many never will.

Remember that sad reality when the howling November winds swirl outside your bedroom window. Think of the many people who brave the elements without four walls to protect them. We are undoubtedly the lucky ones.

And don’t forget what gives Thanksgiving its true heart: our families. Al-though many holiday celebrations begin or end with bickering, think twice before engaging in that petty ritual.

Look further, past our trivial differences, and count the ways our families enrich our lives. We should keep close to our hearts those who will be spending this Thanksgiving alone. The deafening noise of silence is often far worse than the dizzying clamor of your family.

Look into the faces of those seated around us. Imperfections and all, they are some of our finest blessings.

It’s important to honor our history with our friends and families, as well as the values that they have imparted. Being thankful is an invaluable act of grace that never loses its luster. Now more than ever, it must shine.

Shadows and Light

Author and human-rights activist Elie Wiesel, when accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, said, “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has escaped the kingdom of night.”

As a nation, we escaped an unspeakable darkness on the 11th of September. It haunts us still. The trick is to use the good in our lives to combat those fragments of darkness that linger within.

As we sit at the table, let’s all embrace the intangibles that give life its splendor: faith, good health, love for family, memories carved by enduring friendships and, of course, that unsung remedy—laughter.

Keep in your hearts the words of Scripture: “Enter his [God’s] gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Be grateful that we are all children of a generous God—members of a large, diverse family. For this, we should all say a prayer of thanks.

And hopefully all of us—our families, our nation, this fractured world in which we live—will indeed be a good deal better someday.—C.H.

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