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Thanksgiving for many is the best holiday of the year. Besides being all about family, food and football, the day is actually – and always – one extra-long weekend, beginning Wednesday afternoon and stretching all the way to Sunday evening. By then, even the leftovers have no leftovers.

The holiday is a time of celebrating family good fortune and, of being grateful for life’s abundance of grace and love. A pedigreed American holiday, Thanksgiving traces back to our country’s earliest days and dreams. Being thankful is woven into and through the fabric of that history and our nation’s collective consciousness.

But one day, and even one extra-long weekend each year hardly seems enough to satisfy all we should be grateful for every day. Yes, America has its problems (more, it seems lately, than ever); and every life knows what it means to be human and hurting. Still, on any given day (even the darkest) throughout any given year (even the worst), there is always much to be thankful for.

Sometimes children seem to know this more than the rest of us. Like the six-year-old cancer patient who hugged her grandfather and said, “Thanks, Grampa.” “For what, Kitten?” he asked, “I didn’t bring you anything this time.” “For being YOU,” she giggled.

Gratitude happens on many levels and in many ways. It is often taken for granted, for going without saying. When overstated it is usually mistrusted; when missing, it can pinch or even cripple a relationship. But nothing is easier to give than gratitude. No matter how small or generous the gift, a genuine “thank you” never goes unheard.

Life, being the gift that it is, every day should be a thanks-giving day, whether the recipient is God or the busboy in a restaurant. Inbetween are family and friends, those who care and are cared for, the surprises of little pleasures and the awareness of beauty and love.

     On Thanksgiving Day itself, turkey, ham and tenderloin help many to celebrate the abundance of living. While the poor and homeless among us testify to the relativity of “abundance,” in some ways their “thank you’s” define the day’s real meaning. Gratitude, while the end-result of someone else’s generosity, practically demands generosity in return. The holiday reminds all of us that what is given can always, in thanks, be shared – a message fortunately that echoes through the entire holiday season.

     And, hopefully, every day of the year that follows.