When asked about his life as an itinerant preacher, the Sufis relate that Jesus said, “The moon is my lantern, my sandals are my chariot, and the morning sun is my winter’s fire.” Wanting for nothing, Jesus’ attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving informed his life, his mission, and his miracles. The effects and power of gratitude are remarkable.
In a country heartsick and worn with the terrors of war, President Abraham Lincoln knew what was needed and declared a day of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Although there has been much discussion about the first fabled Thanksgiving we constantly revisit in school, the fact remains that people from wildly different backgrounds and religions found excuse to gather and give thanks for the blessings received amidst their hardship, and their example – intended or not – echoes through to us today.
When we have nothing, how do we give thanks? Thanksgiving is an attitude, and many argue not a very realistic one. All things being equal, attitudes of thanks or bitterness may not affect the world around us, but they do affect us. The facts of continued life, use of limbs and senses, and opportunities for the future are all excuses for thanks. Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, points out that even having access to a computer means a person is more materially blessed than 90% of the world population. Having an attitude of gratitude helps a person’s life for the better in a number of ways, from the mental to the physical.
The first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving uniquely overlap this year. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, in his article Gratefulness Makes the Soul Great, points out, “Thanksgiving is one of those rare times when people come together to reaffirm the principle that the blessings we have received as a country and as individuals are gifts from God, and that expressing gratitude for these things is good and necessary. And at Hanukkah, Jews give thanks for God’s miraculous provision and protection during a pivotal time in their history.”
Gratitude is one of those rare commodities, something which everyone can give.