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True Purpose Of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving’s Journey Of Freedom, brought many kind notes. Most contained comments such as this one:

Your Thanksgiving Journey article is great to read in these days of over consumption. We often times forget to count our blessings. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of doing so.

— Ed Morrison
Division Director
Vernon, California

Yet the piece was also critiqued for a logical flaw — or perhaps a sin of omission. We spoke of what we were thankful for, but failed to state to whom we were thankful. Fortunately an astute reader filled in the gap:

That is a very lovely piece. However, lest we lose the true meaning of this day, I urge you to read and reflect on President Lincoln’s original Thanksgiving Proclamation and take careful note of the object to Whom our thanks must be addressed. Without Him, it is only a “feeling of thanks”, for true “Thanksgiving” can only be made when it is in fact “given”.

Please do not miss this. The greatness of America, past, present and future, can only be found in her national reliance on the sovereign God of the Bible. Each American must not be required to personally participate in His worship, but to continue to ignore or deny Him will be the ultimate destruction of this singular nation in the history of the world.

I urge you therefore, to make yours a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Abraham Lincoln, President, the Year of Our Lord 1863.

— Daniel Barth
General Manager
Super King Markets
Anaheim, California

Daniel Barth was also kind enough to share a memo he distributed to his associates at Super King Markets:

November 2009

To All Super King Employees

Once again the calendar reminds us to not just “feel” gratitude but to say it to the people to whom it is due. In this case you are that person. So, thank you for who you are and for what you do every day to make Super King a great place to work and shop!

In his thanksgiving proclamation of October 3, 1863, then President Abraham Lincoln included the words below when he established forever the 4th Thursday of November a “national day of Thanksgiving”. As you read and reflect on them, keep in mind that he was presiding over a nation torn by a terrible civil war.

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things (wealth, abundant harvest and the preservation of the United States). They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

However you choose to spend your thanksgiving, in whatever manner you and your family celebrate, my prayer is that each of you will take a moment to say “thank you” to someone close to you and that each of us will become more thankful people. Happy Thanksgiving!

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was urged upon him by a magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale and the text is believed to have actually been written by Secretary of State William Seward of Seward’s Folly fame, as his proposal to acquire Alaska from the Russians was then called. We would draw attention to the portion prior to that quoted in Daniel Barth’s letter to the employees of Super King Markets:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

The key to all this is that this was a very difficult time. The Civil War was a long and bloody one, with more American casualties than any other conflict, before or since. This proclamation made no attempt to hide the seriousness of the times:

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity…

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence…

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field…

Yet despite such horrors, there was still much to be grateful for.

Abraham Lincoln was the greatest democratic leader in history. His deep hatred for war causes him to edge out even Winston Churchill, who was a little too exuberant in such matters.

Part of a democratic leader’s greatness must be his ability to maintain the morale and support of the citizenry. Lincoln’s proclamation reminded a war-weary citizenry of the blessings they still enjoyed and the reasons to be optimistic about the future.

In so doing, he helped to sustain the union and thus the source of so many of our blessings today.

Many thanks to Ed Morrison of Interfresh and Daniel Barth of Super King Markets for reminding us of the true purpose of Thanksgiving.

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