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President Abraham Lincoln in many ways embodied the American dream.
He came from humble beginnings yet rose to the highest office in the land.
Born at a time when Black Americans were enslaved, he helped lead the charge to bring them into that dream.
He was elected leader of a nation that was tearing itself apart, where even brother fought against brother. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would die on the battlefield during his presidency. Yet he refused to give up on the promise of “a more perfect Union.”
And he understood that gratitude can be transformational. Just a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg, with the American Civil War still raging, he issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, drafted by his Secretary of State William Seward.
Though people around the world, including in America, had intermittently celebrated days and meals of thanksgiving (such as the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621 and a 1789 proclamation by George Washington), Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863 made Thanksgiving Day an official annual holiday in the United States.
Imagine that. The Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today was born at a time of pain and national division.
If Lincoln could call for gratitude in the midst of America’s most deadly war, surely we can aim for it today.
Yes, the country feels more divided today than in recent years. Neighbors refuse to speak to each other. Families are unable to come to the same table for a meal without the fear of a fight breaking out. Not only that, but we’re also recovering from a global pandemic and facing a challenging economy.
In moments like what we’re experiencing today, it’s natural to feel fear, or anger, or resentment, or pain. But rediscovering and focusing on reasons for thanks can make a difference.
Expressing gratitude can improve well-being – for individuals and our communities. It’s associated with enhanced moods, better sleep, and decreased anxiety. Scholars have also found that an attitude of gratitude can make people feel more connected to those around them.
Personally, when I focus on gratitude, I uncover reasons for hope as well. So here are three things for which I’m grateful:
Making a difference one lawn at a time. Full version 2:39. pic.twitter.com/exIop95Kjo
— Rodney Smith Jr (@iamrodneysmith) August 14, 2020
One more thing about focusing on gratitude. I’ve found that once I start looking for reasons to be grateful, I find more than I ever expected. So I’d love to hear from you on what’s making you grateful this season.
If you’d like to share your stories with me, please email me at email@example.com.
And I wish you peace, hope, joy, and, of course, gratitude this Thanksgiving.
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