Peter J. Rubinstein | November 23, 2009
None of us are too old not to remember three instructions given by our parents which we most disliked: Eat your vegetables! Say your sorry! And say “thank you”. While we probably could accept that eating vegetables was in some unfathomable adult way good for us, most of us doubted whether there was anything beneficial in saying “I’m sorry” when we really didn’t mean it and probably preferred to drub the other child we had just whacked. As for saying “Thank You”, well we knew that was good manners, but as we attacked the wrapping paper which was the barrier between us and the gift we had just been given, our inclination as children was not to pay much attention to expressing gratitude. We probably thought that we deserved what we received.
Indeed giving thanks may not be our nature when we are young, especially for what we took for granted: family, friends, food, home, creation itself. We considered these elements in our lives as in the natural order of what we deserved. Why give thanks for what we believed was our due?
Our ancestors understood our indifference to expressing gratitude. Otherwise there is no reason for the Psalmist’s directive “Tov l’hodot adonoi”. “It is good to give thanks to the Eternal One, to sing hymns to Your name, O most high. To tell of Your love in the morning, Your faithfulness in the night; to pluck the strings, to sound the lute, to make the harp vibrate.”
Our ancestors were wonderfully realistic about human frailty, about our tendency for self-gratification and indifference to expressing gratitude to others. Thus we are commanded by our tradition to give thanks, to acknowledge the gifts in our lives and to express a comprehension of how, though we may have done nothing to deserve the blessings we have received, nevertheless enumerate those blessings that have graced our existence.
As we gather today, it is important for me (and I would be bold enough to speak for all of us) to express gratitude for the nation in which we live, where people of faith, different faiths can worship together. Whatever our political leanings we are especially mindful of the members of our armed services who are far away and should be grateful for their service to our nation.
As well, I am mindful of the miracle of our city. a rather amazing demonstration of the ability of human beings, if they truly desire to do so, to accept the presence of others who are different and to live together. We must be grateful for the members of our police and fire departments and emergency services who continue to serve us with the courage and dedication they demonstrated during the tragedy two years ago.
I am also grateful for the sensitivity of Father Mead, the other clergy, and the members of this Church for having enabled us to gather as a community with people of different faiths.
In childhood, some of us might have resisted saying “Thank you” when told to do so by our parents. But, with the experience of life, we know how much there is for which to be grateful. As we acknowledge that it is good to give thanks to God, we embrace gratitude as a pillar of our lives. We are grateful for all that God has given us including life itself. With the music of our soul we say “Thank You” on this Thanksgiving eve as we should do always.
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