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Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

--Ecclesiastes 8:15

IMAGINE a holiday dedicated to just being thankful. How American! In what other country does the founding document mention the pursuit of happiness? Answer: none other. We're it, baby.

If your heart's beating, and you're free from chains, dance. As an American, your duty is to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Not to mention leisure, refreshment and amusement. And, while we're at it, let's set aside a whole day in the middle of the work week just to celebrate the thought.

What other people would think up a whole holiday just to eat, drink and be merry? No flowers for mom, no chocolate for the lady, no staying awake to midnight to count down the seconds. (Some of us won't stay awake until dark.) No presents to unwrap--and before that, buy. Can it all be as simple as sitting down with family and eating? And praying? And watching football? And not necessarily in that order.

How American to take an entire Thursday to celebrate the blessings of Providence. And then get ready for the very next day, in which we give thanks for merchandising. ("The business of America is business."--President Calvin Coolidge.)

The ancient Romans would understand. Didn't they have a god named Janus that looked to the past and future? And wasn't he the god of birth, and travel, and exchange? In the next two days, there will be a lot of travel and exchange.

Ah, travel. Some of us can't wait till we hear the gravel grind in the yard and know that the kids have made it back. With certain demands. On this day, everybody has a demand. For mom's homemade rolls. Or dad's gravy. One of the kids in our house goes out of her way to make Mississippi Mud Pie, and Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it. And the recipe with the string beans and mushroom soup and French onions and cheese ... . Well, that's our demand.

THERE hasn't been a Thanksgiving like this one in ... forever.

Sure, it is another wartime Thanksgiving, as was the last one and the one before that. As much as we'd like to go to sleep and forget about the dangers of the world, the enemy is always looking to break through. Today we give thanks first and last for our own peace and security and for all those who provide it, and who may be otherwise engaged today--above or in Syria, above or in Afghanistan, above or in places that maybe the rest of us don't know about and might not want to know about. ("I'm not afraid of the grey wolf, who stalks through our forest at dawn."--Randy Newman.)

Today we think of those families where one place at the table will always be empty. And we are reminded that there are some debts that can never be repaid.

As earlier generations have done and Americans to come surely will do, this generation confronts an historic challenge: its rendezvous with destiny. Has there ever been a war that wasn't described as entirely new and unprecedented, and as requiring new and unprecedented responses? ("The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." --Abraham Lincoln, Dec. 1, 1862.)

Of all the things that have changed since this nation was founded--after another war, lest we forget--let us be thankful that some things have not changed, like the dedication of still another generation of Americans doing their duty. Let us pray the rest of us will be worthy of them.

Americans have grown so accustomed to our blessings that we may take even Thanksgiving for granted. We shouldn't. Let us count our blessings deliberately. Today we are especially grateful for:

All those who make the holiday possible for the rest of us. For the airline pilots and flight attendants. For the exhausted young intern who'll get his turkey today off a steam table in the hospital cafeteria. For harried nurses and emergency crews who might celebrate with a leftover turkey sandwich tomorrow, for emergencies don't take holidays. For the trucker who'll order pumpkin pie in the only recognition of the holiday his schedule will allow. For the tired waitress who serves it.

For the air of anticipation as folks come home for the holiday. You can almost hear the sweetest two words in the language in the rustle of every crowd at an airport or bus station or railroad depot: Welcome home!

LET US give thanks for the bustle before the guests arrive, the hubbub of greetings when they do, the same stories improved on every year, and the arguments over exactly when something in family history happened and why.

For the peace that descends at the end of the day when the guests depart and all the rituals--from grace before dinner to the plans for coming Christmas trips--have been fully observed.

For friends who make life sweet in the good times, bearable in the bad, and who, because they stick by us when we don't deserve it, teach us true grace.

For the presence of the past around the table--in the faces of the old, in family stories, in familiar recipes, in the voices of those who taught us the lay of the land, and in the almost unbearable sweetness of memories of Thanksgivings past.

For the labor that goes into Thanksgiving and produces such delectable results. Let us give thanks for the groaning board: for turkey and dressing, for cranberry sauce and yams, and for pies--pumpkin and mincemeat and Karo nut and sweet potato. Yes, we'll save room. We always save room.

Let us give thanks for leaving and for arriving. For the look of two-lane highways twisting through the Ozark hills in the early morning. And for the long ribbons of blacktop stretching forever through the flat, rich, green Delta where you can see the immensity of the sky--if only you remember to look up.

The names of people and places. For girls with two names (Bailey Lynn, Bobbie Sue). For nicknames for the boys (Bubba, Bo). For the names of Arkansas towns. Smackover and Hope. Pine Bluff and Flippin and Delight. Little Rock and Big Rock Township, Natural Steps and Toad Suck and Pickles Gap Village. Don't forget Calico Rock and Snowball and Standard Umpstead. Let us give thanks for Friendship, Amity and Romance; for Sweet Home, Welcome, and Needmore; for Evening Shade and Morning Star. Arkansas even has a Ralph, Waldo, and Emerson.

And finally, we're thankful for you, our readers, for whom we write and report, and for the Providence that has preserved us, sustained us, and has let us all reach this day together. A good appetite to you!

Editorial on 11/28/2019

Print Headline: Thanksgiving 2019


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