Child Watch® Column: "A Time for Thanksgiving"

Release Date: November 21, 2008

Marian Wright Edelman

The past year has been a tumultuous and uncertain one for many Americans. Each day's headlines brought worrisome news: the collapse of Wall Street; massive home and job losses; and a spreading global economic crisis. We all felt enormous fear and insecurity for our family's and children's futures. Yet a bright rainbow of hope broke through the clouds of despair with the election of Senator Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

I thank God that America has climbed another rung up the ladder towards freedom and justice for all; that her dream has risen above the rubble of war, the quicksand of greed, and the chasms of racial, religious and class strife. And I thank God for kindling hope among our children and all of us. I especially thank God for the vision, courage, and hard work of President-Elect Obama, who called us to become our best selves, and that we answered.

I share again the beautiful prayer of Black theologian Howard Thurman, A Litany of Thanksgiving, which my family reads together each Thanksgiving. Notice how few of the things he talks about cost money:

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I begin with the simple things of my days:
     Fresh air to breathe,
     Cool water to drink,
     The taste of food,
     The protection of houses and clothes,
     The comforts of home.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
     My mother's arms,
     The strength of my father,
     The playmates of my childhood,
     The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and all kinds of magic held sway;
     The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
     The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.

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

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
     The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;
     The tightening of the grip in a single handshake when I feared the step before me in the darkness;
     The whisper in my 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 my decision hung in the balance.

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

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
     The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before me, without whom my own life 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 saviors whose blood was shed with a recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
     The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves, my desires, my gifts;
     The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence that I have never done my best, I have never reached for the highest;
     The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my 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,
I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

So let us all be grateful for all the miracles in our lives and go forth with faith, courage and determination as our President-Elect did.


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