One of the hymns we used to sing in church was about blessings. The last lines were “Count your blessings. Name them one-by-one. Count your blessings. See what God has done.” At our Thanksgiving dinner table, we used to tell what we were thankful for. As children, footballs, books, and school vacations were at the top of the list. People were named when we were older, especially our grandparents.
I ran across a blessing list from the 18th century. The details are striking, as well as simple.
On Thursday, November 21, 1793, 75 year old Samuel Lane of Stratham, New Hampshire wrote.
Here it is, in part:
“As I was musing on my Bed being awake as Usual before Daylight; recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for which I ought to be thankful this Day;
The Life & health of myself and family, and also of so many of my Children, grand Children and great grandchildren…
for my Bible and Many other good and Useful Books, Civil and Religious Priviledges…
for my Land, House and Barn and other Buildings, & that they are preserv’d from fire & other accidents.
for my wearing Clothes to keep me warm, my Bed & Bedding to rest upon.
for my Cattle, Sheep & Swine & other Creatures, for my support.
for my Corn, Wheat, Rye Grass and Hay; Wool, flax, Syder, Apples, Pumpkins, Potatoes, cabages, tirnips, Carrots, Beets, peaches and other fruit.
For my Clock and Watch to measure my passing time by Day and by Night.
Wood, Water, Butter, Cheese, Milk, Pork, Beefe, & fish, &c.
for Tea, Sugar, Rum, Wine, Gin, Molasses, peper, Spice & Money for to bye other Necessaries and to pay my Debts and Taxes &c.
for my lether, Lamp oyl & Candles, Husbandry Utensils, & other tools of every sort…
Bless the Lord O my Soul and all that is within me Bless his holy Name…”
Mr.Lane is grateful for all he has.
Reenactors portray a possible scene from the 18th century.
On October 3, 1789, President George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving with these words.
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”
Norman Rockwell famously depicted an ordinary family feasting on Thanksgiving. His title for this was Freedom from Want.
Yes, we will share our thanks for many things and many people this Thanksgiving. And as Amy Grant said, “Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just givin