As we turn the page from November to December and the last few days of this autumn season draw to a close, your friends at Rainbow International pause to wish everyone a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving.
This time of year, for many, is filled with poignant and stirring memories of Thanksgiving Day past. Family gatherings, hectic travel, delicious food, comforting traditions and stopping to marvel at just how much far-flung relatives’ children have grown since last year are a few. As we gather together to break bread, watch football games and parades, play in a yard full of red, gold and yellow leaves or, simply, to slow the pace of a life lived all too often in the fast lane, take a moment to ponder the many blessings we enjoy. Before the full rush and bustle of Christmas is upon us, it is perhaps fitting and true to the Thanksgiving season to allow our hearts and minds time to rest, relax and, with the sweet and innocent heart of a child, say “thank you.”
In October 1863, a fractured nation and bitterly divided people, horrified and reeling from 51,000 combined casualties on the blood-soaked fields of southern Pennsylvania near a town known as Gettysburg, took solace in the words and request of President Abraham Lincoln. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation (October 3, 1863) Lincoln issued a call for prayer and peace. His words (shared below) ring as hauntingly true today as they must have 147 years ago to a grieving and wounded people. This first (modern) observance of Thanksgiving Day fell one week after the formal dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg.
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, 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, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
Happy Thanksgiving from Rainbow International.