The Indispensable Benefits of Gratitude
Talk show host and movie critic Michael Medved once told a cultural conference in Washington that people could be divided into two basic groups --- those who are grateful to God and those who are not.
For the ungrateful, the day begins with new complaints about their sorry state, which is usually someone else’s fault. Check out any elite, mob-besieged campus for the latest evidence.
For those filled with gratitude, however, life begins each day with a simple thanks to God for another day of life and the hope that God will bless their endeavors throughout the day.
The Pilgrims are credited with celebrating the nation’s first Thanksgiving in 1621, the year after the Mayflower landed. Despite having lost numerous souls during the voyage and after a harsh winter, they gathered for a feast with several dozen Indians at Plymouth, Massachusetts to thank God following their first harvest.
Farther south, in the nation’s first English colony of Jamestown, which was founded in 1607, historians have chronicled many days devoted to thanksgiving, beginning in 1610.
More than a century and a half later, Benjamin Franklin, whose invocation of prayer turned around a stalled constitutional convention at the dawn of a new nation, reminded himself and his countrymen to be thankful for providential blessings great and small. He saw gratitude as indispensable to mental and societal health. As for its opposite, he said bluntly that “ingratitude is one of the most odious of vices.”
One of Franklin’s many recorded prayers includes this passage: “Let me not be unmindful to acknowledge the favours I receive from Heaven …. For all Thy innumerable benefits; for life and reason, and the use of speech, for health and joy and every pleasant hour, my Good God, I thank thee.”
We are truly blessed to live in a free and prosperous nation, which, for all its faults, still has a large number of grateful citizens who understand just how rare and precious it is.
Looking around at the rest of the world, it’s getting easier every day to make the case for American exceptionalism and the enduring importance of our Christian heritage.
Robert Knight is a Senior Fellow at the American Civil Rights Union.