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Thanksgiving is uniquely American, first celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag Indians sometime between September and November.

It was a sporadic celebration from that year until Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

I have always thought of Thanksgiving as a challenge to all Americans to pause and be mindful of our blessings in spite of the circumstances in our personal lives and in the nation.

In that regard, this year seems to be more of a challenge than any of us would wish.

For my family sadness hangs in the air as we approach this Thanksgiving because of the loss of friends and loved ones, some expected and others quite sudden and tragically.

I find the state of the nation is also a source of sadness this year. We are a bitterly divided country with genuine questions about what the future holds, including whether the democracy we say we cherish will survive efforts to corrupt it.

What is more, I confess to coming to Thanksgiving table with resentments that greatly trouble me:

– resentment toward Donald Trump’s continuing efforts to exploit our divisions for selfish gain as he has been doing for more than five years…

– resentment for Trump Republicans who don’t want to disagree with people like me, but who seem to want to destroy us, annihilate us, and, if need be, destroy the federal government to achieve that end…

– resentment toward political leaders more committed to their careers than to the common good…

– resentment toward Christians and churches that have corrupted the Christian message with a craven nationalism that has turned faith communities into nothing more than political bases.

I have other resentments, but this list leaves no doubt that for me Thanksgiving this year is more of a challenge than it has been in years past.

That said, though, I discovered something that has helped me to begin getting out of myself and beyond my resentments, restoring some balance to my life that I am trusting will open my heart to feeling genuine gratitude when Thanksgiving Day arrives. 

This experience couldn’t have come at a better time. It was one of those gifts of life that unexpectedly comes to us just when we seem to need something to change our day, our thoughts, our hearts, our outlook.

It happened when I read Maria Shriver’s weekly column in her online “Sunday Paper” that focused on Thanksgiving. In it she mentioned that she really liked Idina Menzel song, “At This Table.” I had never heard it so I decided to do a YouTube search and listen to it.

Not to be overly dramatic, what I experienced was one of those serendipitous moments in which I heard exactly the message I needed to hear.

America as a shining light in a dark world may be more myth than reality, but it has always been a myth that has made me thankful that I am a citizen of this great land.

Honestly, though, I haven’t felt that way much over the last few years, but “At This Table” renewed my spirit and rekindled hope in me that as a nation we actually can be a shining light in the world. Each time I listen to it I believe a little more that our democracy will survive, our country will regain its balance, and as Americans we will recommit ourselves to telling the truth and practicing justice.

I now consider it my unofficial national anthem and want to share it with all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(The link below is the version that spoke to me. If the words are not on the side, key the search icon and it will take you to the version that has them. ) 


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