Our View: Giving thanks in the midst of turmoil

Our View: Giving thanks in the midst of turmoil

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Sometimes a particular holiday is especially needed.

That is certainly the case as Thanksgiving approaches this year. Our national day of reflection and gratitude arrives right after an extraordinarily nasty and divisive presidential campaign that in some ways has become worse since Election Day.

It’s time to pause and let go of the anxiety and frustration some of us might be feeling — if only for a few days. Deep breaths and cleared minds should improve the tone of our national discourse, and also lower our collective blood pressure.

Gratitude is not a natural reaction, particularly in the midst of turmoil. Instead, thankfulness must be cultivated. While the Internet has enabled the spread of vitriol, one positive trend during 2016 has been an uptick in Facebook users talking about practiced gratitude. Each day, they post something for which they are grateful. A heart full of appreciation has less room for anger and hatred.

In this, as in so many things, President Abraham Lincoln continues to offer us guidance through his example. In October 1863, in the midst of the horrors of the Civil War, Lincoln set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day of national Thanksgiving and issued the first presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving, something that each president has done every year since. Lincoln, in part, said:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it.”

In the spirit of Lincoln, we offer the following for which we are grateful in this tumultuous year:

That we live in a democracy based on the rule of law that is bigger than any one election or president. We are thankful that our leaders — civilian and military — and both major political parties are dedicated to the peaceful transfer of power following elections.

That our basic freedoms — of speech, religion, assembly, property and the press — remain cherished, constitutionally protected values. And that publications such as the Times are able to serve not just as vehicles of community information, but also as watchdogs on power of all kinds.

That we live in a vibrant, interesting community made up of people of differing nationalities, cultures, religions and political perspectives. And that, for the most part, we live together peacefully.

That we have a thriving small business community that forms the economic backbone of our city. And for the entrepreneurs and business owners who pour their life savings and hearts into their ventures.

That we live in a community so dedicated to giving, both of time and treasure, to help those in need. This philanthropic bent is one of Alexandria’s greatest strengths.

We would love to hear from you, our readers, about some of the things for which you are grateful this year. Please write to us at letters@alextimes.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!