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November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving to Whom?

In our increasingly secular age in which growing numbers of especially young people claim no belief in God, or are indifferent to Him, to whom will they give thanks?

Merriam-Webster has announced it is adding about 500 new words to its 7th edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. I doubt most people will ever use them in conversation or in writing, but they will be beneficial when playing the board game.

Meanwhile, the corruption of the English language continues. Some words (and their usage), which might be better known than these new Scrabble entries, continue to be misapplied (a great 10-letter word) while pronouns and nouns are increasingly used in the same sentence, in violation of sound grammar rules.

One exchange that seems particularly grating — and doubly so, especially at Thanksgiving — goes like this:

Me: Thank you.

Person to whom thanks is given: “No problem.”

Why should anyone consider an expression of thanks a problem? What happened to “you’re welcome”? And why do so many spell the contraction of you and are as your? English teachers take note. I digress, but only partially (nine letters).

One definition of “thanksgiving” is this: “public celebration acknowledging divine favors.” The word implies an object to whom thanks should be given. In our increasingly secular age in which growing numbers of especially young people claim no belief in God, or are indifferent to Him, to whom will they give thanks? The person who prepared the meal? What if the hosts ordered dinner from a store? I doubt those feasting on the repast would thank store employees.

True, some churches will hold services on the day and many will pray and give thanks to God before violating whatever diet they are on, or the advice of their doctors about cholesterol.

Those who first came to America credited God for his blessed favor. Though many died from various causes in the early 17th century, those who survived expressed their gratitude to the One who brought them safely here and sustained them.

So it was with William Bradford, the first governor of Massachusetts, who issued a proclamation on Nov. 29, 1623:, which read in part: “…the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us …  spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God, according to the dictates of our own conscience.”

In the middle of the horrific Civil War, Abraham Lincoln found something for which to be thankful as he established Thanksgiving as an official national holiday. While Lincoln issued the proclamation, credit for the holiday must go to Sarah Josepha Hale, who edited a publication called “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” a popular women’s magazine in the 19th century. Hale repeatedly urged Lincoln to formalize the day, which he did in 1863. While noting that no foreign nation had taken advantage of America’s division and that harvests continued to be plentiful, Lincoln wrote: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

And so it was and so it has been ever since.

The word thanksgiving is too long for the Scrabble letters on one’s tray, but its synonym gratitude will fit. You might even land on a triple-word score, but more than that you will be expressing something that seems in all too short supply today to the One who deserves our thanks and praise for the undeserved blessings He has bestowed on America.

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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