If, at birth, there was a little lemonade stand that passed out Life-Choices along with the lemonade, I would choose Gratitude. Gratitude is the most precious and the most fundamental virtue. From Gratitude all other virtues flow.
I believe that a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars;
And the ant is equally perfect. And the egg of a wren. And a grain of sand.
And the running blackberries would adorn the parlors of heaven.
And the tiniest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery.
And a cow crunching with depressed head surpasses any statue.
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
If we are capable of appreciating a blade of grass we are capable of loving. If we are capable of loving, we are capable of loving all of life, be it good, be it bad, be it inconvenient, be it unfortunate, be it a blessing.
For many years I have been making a point, at the risk of sounding corny to my friends, of taking time to observe the meaning of holidays. We grow up worshipping them because they mean time off from school or work. But they all have meaning. And that’s why they are important enough to stop what we are doing. Stop. Reflect. Appreciate. (Schools don’t teach us how to appreciate, they show us how to celebrate: celebration is not the same as appreciation.) As a kid, Memorial Day was a day to decorate my bike. Labor Day was a picnic and it signaled back-to-school. Easter: candy, jelly-beans, rabbits. Christmas, presents. Never did I reflect.
Thanksgiving, is an ingenious holiday (I would like to know how many civilizations celebrate a similar concept) I believe it is our most important holiday. Christmas is, of course, by popular standards, the top dog (for reasons that are mostly ignored), but without a Thanksgiving spirit, there is no Christmas.
The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
The essence of all love, is gratitude. So we must celebrate gratitude, it deserves the highest holiday. Thank you, world; thank you, mom and dad; thank you my child; thank you teacher, thank you fruit tree, thank you stranger, thank you Life. How can one say I love you if one can not first say thank you? Impossible.
Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.
Edward Gibbon, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”
Revenge feels good but gratitude requires a pay-back. Well, it surely does, and that’s why we need Thanksgiving. We need to consider what we owe. And we need to gather together and pass the hat and sing praises for the incredible gifts that have been bestowed upon us. The poor, the handicapped, the rich, the lonely, the depressed, all of us share the gift of life. We are part of this wondrous quilt.
No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.
Elie Wiesel, Romanian-U.S. novelist (accepting Nobel Peace Prize in 1986)
The hungry, the poor, the underprivileged, all know gratitude more quickly than others. They are grateful for the smallest of life’s gifts. And that is how we should all aspire, I believe. Spiritual leaders all are poor. They give everything up, they throw out the material possessions in favor of the simple life. They travel with donkeys, not cars. They give their food to others, instead of stealing from them because they are grateful. They have emerged from the darkness of nothing-is-possible into the light of everything-is-appreciated.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (British writer and critic)
Thanksgiving is our greatest national holiday because it honors that which makes every other holiday meaningful. It is not accidental that it also celebrates food and communal dinner. What other ritual in the human drama is more representative of giving thanks than the breaking of bread? The family table. The collective rejoicing of being together and being grateful for what we have.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Marcus Tulius Cicero (Roman statesman, orator, philosopher)
All holidays should be occasions to celebrate and reflect. A blade of grass, a pesky taunting crow, a brilliant poppy flower amidst the weeds, the weed who has to compete against the poppy, a friend, life. Whatever. Give thanks.