Thanksgiving is as American as Indians, pilgrims and turkeys. The day not only celebrates our early history but also voices one of the better parts of our nation’s character. Other nations, these days, may not be grateful for America, but most Americans are, despite its shortcomings.

Democracy will continue to be a work in progress for eons of Thanksgivings to come. Each Year however, one Thursday in late November and its graciously long weekend seem hardly adequate to express the gratitude necessary for all that this country means and offers not only to all its citizens but also to planet Earth.

Freedom, for instance. And Equality. And the Opportunity to grow while pursuing happiness. Imperfect at best, each is more than just a word or a phrase.

Freedom may be the air we breathe, but, unfortunately, it is polluted by violence, terrorism, racism and bigotry; yet there is much to be thankful for. Whenever and however tested, the voice of freedom remains strong and clear, protecting the priceless spirit of our Constitution. Any erosion of freedom in America challenges, as ever, all its citizens to stand and resist. Freedom is the blood in the veins of any democracy. 

Equality may seem a fiction, even while confronting its own struggles, when measured by the many levels of differences among us – economics, race, religion, talents and character. Equality of person needs to become the measure of respect for one another; social justice, a proactive reality and not simply a cause; and acceptance as the starting point of change, not mere tolerance, the tangible hallmark of a democratic society. Only then can true equality take stronger root as a real possibility. In the meantime, both freedom and equality need to respect, endorse and embrace diversity as one of our country’s greatest resources.

Opportunity continues to tap into the strength our country needs to grow. Our streets may not be paved with Biblical gold, but they have been born of opportunity without which even a nation such as ours would die. People who are blind to the opportunities offered them by this democracy, or disbelieving in their own ability to become productive citizens, shortchange themselves and the rest of us. Like fledglings discovering their wings and learning to fly, those who recognize or create an opportunity need only to seize it to fly as well.

Gratitude for all our country has to offer can rarely be misplaced. But gratitude becomes meaningful only when what is offered is accepted, appreciated and used, helping one become a better self, others as well and fashioning a meaningful life. There may be no better way to pursue happiness.

     A thoughtful Thanksgiving to one and all.