Op-Ed: Much for which to be thankful, especially in challenging times
It's been a difficult year for many Washington families. Unemployment is high. Many businesses have closed or curtailed operations. Young people in the military are deployed to wars overseas. State government faces budget deficits. And we are still trying to establish a foothold in this economy.
Yet even in these challenging times, I am optimistic our state's best days are ahead. As we gather around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow, I believe Washington families have much for which to be thankful.
Looking through history, there are parallels of why Thanksgiving is most meaningful in the toughest of times.
We all know of that feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. However, life wasn't easy. The Pilgrims faced challenges, more harsh than we can compare with today. In the bitter cold winter the year before, nearly half their people died. However, months later, with help from the Wampanoag tribe, they harvested a bountiful crop. They celebrated with their Native American friends in the first Thanksgiving feast.
It wasn't until 1623 that the next thanksgiving celebration would occur. It came after a terrible drought, followed by several days of rain. When Gov. Bradford realized both crops and colonists would survive, he declared another day of thanksgiving. The Pilgrims knew even in the most challenging times, they still had much for which to give thanks.
During the darkest hours of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington fell to his knees in prayer in the snows of Valley Forge. When France subsequently provided assistance, General Washington called for a day of thanksgiving among his troops. Eleven years later, Congress accepted Washington's request to declare Nov. 26, 1789 as Thanksgiving Day for the people to acknowledge, “the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Thanksgiving did not become an annual national holiday until 1863. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, at the urging of writer, Sarah Josepha Hale, saw the unifying potential of the holiday and declared the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”
During the most difficult events in our nation's history, Americans found it the most appropriate time to give thanks for their abundant blessings.
As people in other nations are suppressed by dictators and tyranny, we are blessed with liberty — that quality which brought the Pilgrims to this land and for which Americans have laid down their lives. That freedom gives us the ability to enjoy our families, speak our minds, practice our faith, and make government abide by the people.
Thanksgiving is also not only a day for thanks, but for giving. As we celebrate our blessings, we should ask what we can do to extend a helping hand to others. Many ways exist: volunteer at a food bank, help build shelter for the homeless, donate extra dollars to charity, or just knock on a neighbor's door to see if they need anything.
Today, we have much more to be thankful for than our Pilgrim ancestors. Let us be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of those who prevailed throughout history to enable us to enjoy the lives we do today. Let us use this day to give thanks for the blessings of family, faith, flag and freedom.
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.