Jackie Gingrich Cushman

While a few members of my extended family celebrate Thanksgiving as a prelude to the after-Thanksgiving sales, I think of it as the day before the turkey leftovers.  To me there is nothing better than a leftover turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, spicy mustard, icebox lettuce and tomato.   

We know the first Thanksgiving story, almost 400 years ago, of the pilgrims and the Indians.  Since then, Thanksgiving has become a day of family gatherings, feasting, and football.

While growing up in Carrollton, Georgia, I looked forward to Thanksgiving weekend when our small town put up its Christmas decorations.  The decorations were placed near the top of the light poles, which seemed to me to reach toward heaven.  I never saw the decorations being set out.  It’s as if they just magically appeared every year. 

The decorations appearance marked the transition from giving thanks during Thanksgiving to the slow build up to Christmas.  The colors were red, white and green.  At night, the candy canes and bells lit up and served as a beacon of cheer and festivity.  They seemed to turn my everyday world into a place where magic might happen.  This possibility provided me with optimism.

My father was a college professor and my mother a high school teacher.  While we never lacked for food, the fact that my sister’s hand-me-downs were the foundation of my wardrobe was a reflection of our economic status at the time.  However, what I remember most is not our economic challenges, but our thankfulness for what we did have, and my family’s belief that the future held promise.

Possibly, our thankfulness helped us believe there was a promising future.

This year, with much of the nation besieged by economic trials and troubles, some might feel that there is not as much for which to be thankful.  But as a reader recently shared with me, “out of this pain came new hope.”

A reflection on the meaning and importance of giving thanks as a nation might provide us with perspective.  George Washington’s first presidential proclamation designated the 26th day of November to be set aside for thanksgiving. “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor,” he wrote.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.