By Katie Kieffer
The 1621 Massachusetts Thanksgiving was modeled after fall harvest festivals that were popular in Europe, but don’t expect Prince William of Wales to carve a turkey this week. The Prince may believe in marriage, but he does not believe in Thanksgiving.
When Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, we express gratitude for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a country where the terms “commoners” and “ruling class” are meaningless.
Freedom is what allows Americans to celebrate and experience gratitude in a unique way. When you are free and self-sufficient, you experience life differently than when you are controlled and dependent. Specifically, you view the world with appreciation rather than expectation.
Dr. Theodore Dalrymple states, “…a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement.”
Gratitude is highly beneficial. Psychology Today points out that gratitude yields physical and mental health benefits, higher emotional intelligence and protection against developing a psychological disorder. Studies show that gratitude reduces stress and boosts the immune system. Finally, for those dealing with a loss – whether it’s a lost loved one or a lost job – it is encouraging to know that cultivating a sense of gratitude will increase your ability to handle tragedy.
It would be devastating if we, as a society, lost the sense of gratitude that we celebrate on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, gratitude is slowly being replaced by a notion of entitlement in America. If Washington had not chipped away at the economy, as I blogged here, the unemployment rate would never have skyrocketed to today’s level. Politicians are increasingly acting like aristocrats and pigeonholing Americans into dependence on the government.
If “entitlement” replaces gratitude in American society, people will simply expect good things to happen to them and become extremely frustrated when things don’t go their way. Gratitude gives us a sense of wonder and awe in the face of natural or metaphysical beauty. When good things come our way, we perceive ourselves as fortunate and when hard times hit us we accept them as reality.
This Thanksgiving, think about little ways in which you can cultivate your own sense of gratitude. Return a long-forgotten favor. Take someone out to eat who always eats alone. Call five people in your contact list just to see how they are doing – and not to request a favor. Appreciate the fact that your leaders are public servants, not royal elites, by getting involved and holding politicians accountable who step outside of their Constitutional authority.