When Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863, it probably seemed to many an odd time to be thankful. The nation was torn apart by the Civil War. Still, Lincoln found much for which to thank God, including America’s peace with other nations and “fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He didn’t dismiss or rationalize the price America was paying for that war, but he asked Americans to look upward.
In subsequent years it has been a challenge for Americans to be thankful for events that have diluted our spirit of gratitude. These have included Reconstruction (which harmed freed slaves in the South), World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Watergate and a growing political cynicism that has led too many of us to hate each other.
If Lincoln was able to look above temporal circumstances for the blessings he said came from the “ever-watchful providence of Almighty God,” shouldn’t we?
I am reminded of a song lyric, written long after Lincoln’s time, which reflects the attitude expressed in his proclamation: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” The song was published