Giving thanks on Thanksgiving

By Aziz Junejo | Nov 14, 2012

Next week our nation will celebrate an annual tradition that transcends religion, race or culture. For this, we can thank President Abraham Lincoln who, in 1863, proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day at a time he was trying to hold our nation together.

I grew up viewing this holiday as a reminder of the Native American and pioneer families who, more than a century before Lincoln, gave thanks, by gathering and sharing the first food they harvested.

We currently live in a time where we too should all be thankful because, though we may not have everything we want, most of us have what we need, while in many parts of the world folks do not.

For many Americans, Thanksgiving has become a day of food, family and football, but it can also be a special time for families to reconnect and share stories and ponder on our spiritual foundations.

In a time when the majority of American families share meals so rarely (when they do it’s for barely 15 minutes), Thanksgiving offers all of us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with those dear to us and be reminded of our shared values.

As a child, my parents saw Thanksgiving as an occasion to gather our entire extended family. No one ever missed it.

My mother, who was originally from Indiana, cooked only recipes that had been handed down in her family for generations. Her area of expertise was fresh ground cranberry sauce from scratch and the turkey stuffing containing parts of the turkey we knew she hid from us – because we’d never have eaten them otherwise.

My father told us stories of his life in the old country and how, after they married, mom introduced him to hearty meals like roast turkey, of which he loved.

He reminded us that in the old country, food was not as abundant as in the United States. His stories made us all feel appreciative for what we had.

Thanksgiving always started early and ended very late in the evening. Our relatives ate non-stop and engaged one another in dialogue and debate.

Those long-past Thanksgivings taught us to be more appreciative of one another, and God’s countless bounties He provided us. Today my family continues that tradition.

Thankfulness and gratitude are an integral part of being a Muslim; the Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of constantly thanking God for His help and blessings.

Today many people can improve their Thanksgiving holiday by sharing it with people who, because of economics or distance, cannot spend the day with family and friends. By using this day to help others, it can be a wonderful display of thanks.

There are many local shelters where people can volunteer to serve dinner on Thursday, and if you know of a friend or neighbor who is alone or struggling due to the economy, perhaps you could invite them over for a holiday meal.

As Thanksgiving Day grows near, please take the time to plan out how you will gather with your family or friends and then ponder on everything God has blessed us with; we must be thankful.

Thanksgiving is that enjoyable perfect combination of food, family and fun. But it can serve to strengthen our family bonds, our values and our traditions as a nation, too. Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

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