The idea of a designated day for Americans to give thanks officially dates to 1863, although we're guessing the practice dates to long before that.It is human nature to upliftingly reflect upon the items, simple and vast, that make our lives a little better. Whether you believe those gifts and blessings are the result of divine providence or random good fortune or self-made circumstance, a day for reflection and saying thanks can provide a boost to the human condition.
Which leads us to consider a small sample of the many blessings for which we are thankful this year:
• Living in a country in which power can be transferred through peaceable means -- and has been for well more than 200 years. The recent elections might or might not have provided the results for which you hoped, but it is important to remember that our system remains the envy of much of the world.
As is written in the Wall Street Journal's traditional Thanksgiving Day editorial: "We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord, we yet remain the longest-enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators." These days, we would add the notion of "free women" to that, and we would be better for it.
• With the passing of the election, we are thankful for the passing of election advertisements. Listening to politicians endlessly blather about how they fight for regular people is almost enough to make you wish for a military coup or two. Almost. This situation is particularly annoying in Southwest Washington, where most of the TV commercials are geared to the Oregon elections and have no meaning for us. While our election system can reward voters who are informed and intelligent, the commercials that accompany it perpetually cater to the ill-informed and attempt to reach the electorate in the most simplistic terms imaginable.
• While Southwest Washington has been deluged with rain in recent days, we give thanks for this as we don our raincoats and galoshes (do people still call them galoshes?). As you attempt to avoid floating away down the street, try to remember that the rain is what provides our region with its stunning beauty throughout the year.
• Not everything worthy of recognition must be grandiose or weather-related. In that spirit, we give thanks for the fleeting notion of free time. Those are the moments when you aren't earning a living or making dinner or driving the kids to soccer practice or doing laundry or cleaning the gutters or washing the dishes or vacuuming or visiting your in-laws. You know, free time. Or as some of us call it -- sleep.
• We are thankful for those who came before us, those who had the fortitude to blaze new trails and carve a society out of the wilderness. For the Pilgrims who came from Europe and are credited with creating the idea of a Thanksgiving feast. For the Native Americans who developed a thriving culture across the landscape for centuries prior. And for the pioneers who traversed untold hardships to settle the West.
• And we are thankful for those who remind us that the holiday season is about giving, that providing for others is more important than finding the best bargains on Black Friday.
These are just a few of the gifts that come to mind as we ponder this Thanksgiving Day, and you might or might not agree that each of these is a blessing. We live in a nation in which not everyone must agree, but in which everyone is free to express that disagreement. And that, perhaps, is the greatest blessing of all for Americans.