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Child Watch® Column: "A Litany of Thanksgiving"

Release Date: November 19, 2007

Marian Wright Edelman

In this season of Thanksgiving, I wish you wealth in the things of true value — family, friends, health and peace of mind and spirit. For those of us with plenty, it's a time to stretch our waistbands with customary comfort food — turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. This is a joyous indulgence because it's shared with loved ones.

Thanksgiving is also the day when we watch televised parades, usually punctuated by the arrival of Santa Claus and the beginning of the countdown for Christmas shopping. It is my hope that those of us who begin our gift shopping the day after, known to some as "Black Friday," will remember the families who are less fortunate, especially the children. When my family gathers in this time of Thanksgiving, we begin the holy season leading to Christmas and Hanukkah with the prayer of African-American theologian Howard Thurman, A Litany of Thanksgiving, to help us remember for what and how much we should truly be thankful.

In Your presence, O God, we make our Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
     We begin with the simple things of our days:
     Fresh air to breathe,
     Cool water to drink,
     The taste of food,
     The protection of houses and clothes,
     The comforts of home.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:
     Our mothers' arms,
     The strength of our fathers,
     The playmates of our childhood,
     The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds of magic held sway;
     The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;
     The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We finger one by one the messages of hope that await us at the crossroads:
     The smile of approval from those who held in their
hands the reins of our security,
     The tightening of the grip of a single handshake when we feared the step before us in the darkness,
     The whisper in our heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied,
     The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when our decision hung in the balance.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We passed before us the mainsprings of our heritage:
     The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before us, without whom our own lives would have no meaning,
     The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
     The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp, and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see,
    The workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations,
    The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places,
    The savior whose blood was shed with the recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We linger over the meaning of our own life and commitment to which we give the loyalty of our heart and mind:
     The little purposes in which we have shared with our loves, our desires, our gifts,
     The restlessness which bottoms all we do with its stark insistence that we have never done our best, we have never reached for the highest,
     The big hope that never quite deserts us, that we and our kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel, we make as our sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee, Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.