November 24, 2022


The American Spirit of Gratitude (MIKE COTÉ, NOVEMBER 24, 2022, Ordinary Times)

Thanksgiving is perhaps the quintessential American holiday; we have feasting, we have football, we have family and friends, and we have gratitude. The last line item on that list may seem odd to associate with 'Americanness' as much as the others, but it fits in just fine. In fact, it is deeply embedded in American history, dating back to the colonial era, before the founding of the United States. The strong focus on thankfulness - to the point of dedicating a whole holiday to it - is peculiarly American, but can feel at odds with the classic stereotype of Americans as self-absorbed and entitled. In this case, the stereotype is dead wrong; gratitude is an American tradition that dovetails perfectly with our historic national culture of self-reliance, risk-seeking, and innovation.

The American ethos of thankfulness is just as rooted in our history as is the pioneering spirit and willingness to accept risks in search of a better life. The very first European settlers in what became the United States came here with nothing but what they could carry with them across the stormy Atlantic towards - what was, for them - the great unknown. These colonists - whether they were French fur traders, Dutch merchant-adventurers, Spanish Jesuits, or the English Puritans we associate with Thanksgiving - all took unbelievable risks in leaving their whole world behind to journey into a land as full of promise as it was danger. They wagered their lives on the seaworthiness of their ships, the skill of their crews, and their luck with the weather. They gambled it all on where to land their vessels and disembark, where to set up initial settlements, how to gather crucial resources necessary to sustain life, and how they dealt with the Native inhabitants with whom they interacted. These choices and chances determined whether their settlement would survive, thrive, or fail before the first winter was out.

Posted by at November 24, 2022 3:21 PM