When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the new holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863, he intended that it would be a great day of celebration and an opportunity for a country in need of healing to begin reaching out to those in need.
In his proclamation, Lincoln urged his fellow American citizens to care for “widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged” and to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
The history of Thanksgiving demonstrates the healing power of giving gratitude.
Thanksgiving is more than just a day-long feast. In, the act of celebrating and giving thanks together we heal from past or current conflicts and fuel our desire to help those in need.
1863, the year in which the Thanksgiving proclamation was written, was a terrible year in the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, but it was followed by some of the worst battles of the Civil War. In May, the Battle of Chancellorsville saw 13,000 Confederate casualties, and in July the largest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, was a wholesale slaughter, with 28,000 Confederate and 23,000 Union casualties.
And yet, President Lincoln spoke at great length about the fruits of 1863: about the population increase, the bountiful harvest and the peaceful order of law in all places except “in the theater of military conflict”.
President Lincoln concluded that there is great hope in the ability to “heal the wounds of the nation” by recognizing the great blessings that have been given and by turning our thankfulness to action on behalf of those in need.
This Thanksgiving weekend, as we finish up the leftover pumpkin pie and dive into holiday shopping, take a moment as a family to discuss how you can use what you have been given to be a beacon of hope in the life of someone in need.