Taking a day to express gratitude is part of the American national fabric.
Regardless of whether you think that the voyagers under the leadership of Captain John Woodlief arriving at Berkeley Plantation just up the James River after a long journey from England in 1619 is the first Thanksgiving or the much more publicized gathering in Plymouth with Miles Standish and company, Americans have been dedicating a day to give thanks for nearly 400 years.
“We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival, at the place assigned for plantacon, in the land of Virginia, shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God,” Woodlief recounted.
It’s not a day for selfish indulgences, although the day is worthy of celebration. It is a day of reflection, joy and gratitude to God for the gift of life and love, compassion, happiness and value we can bring to one another.
And, for me, I have many reasons to be thankful.
Many families have a tradition of making lists at Thanksgiving of the things they are thankful for. Most will include things like family, home, job, etc. – all definite and worthy things of which to be on the list. However, I wanted to take a slightly different tack for this column and share the things that I am grateful for as a Virginia writer.
The First Amendment: Whether it’s a blog, a Facebook post, CNN, a women’s march complete with headgear, our ability to communicate with one another, often confounding as much as it is enlightening, is not infringed. Our natural right to let each other know what we think about things and communicate is, within reason, sacred.
Being able to give thanks: Because being able to communicate is sacred, being able to worship freely is also incredibly important. The two go hand-in-hand because it is through communication that we are able to gather, share and worship God’s word and thank Him for our blessings.
Our Differences: In the Abrahamic religions, mankind is created in “our” image. Always a tricky phrase in scripture and worthy of a broader discussion. But it means that in the sameness of being human beings, we are also very unique. We are parts that make up a whole. And it is from those differences that our excesses and exuberances are checked. Liberal is checked by conservative and vice versa. The free-spirited creative is checked by the rational, fact-minded planner. And so forth. But each personality pushes and pulls, challenges and motivates. In this spirit of competition, we tend to better ourselves and find more productive solutions.
Researchers, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Developers, Job producers: These are the people who are not satisfied with the status quo. Those who are willing to push boundaries, challenge assertions, question convention, seek new understandings and make money. These risk takers can be just as present in a new start-up as in government service. Looking for where risks are present and seeing opportunity. It has given us advances in health care, energy production, environmental stewardship, transportation, food production and countless others. If the government is needed, and that’s a big “if,” it serves the purpose to enable people the freedom to maximize the benefits from their ideas while protecting the vulnerable.
You: “Readers are leaders,” so that makes you one. Our community is only as successful as people who are willing to be inquisitive and learn; engage and be open-minded; argue with passion and principle. Being able to write for an audience that I know possesses those values and actively seeks “the Virginia Way” is a great joy and makes me exceptionally grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving, and it is my hope that you are richly blessed this coming year and beyond.
This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News