Count your blessings

Today is a special day. It’s an opportunity to spend time with family, eat a magnificent meal with all the trimmings, watch football until the eyes glaze over and shop for Christmas. It’s a day off from work and the beginning of a long weekend when many will indulge themselves in the spirit of our times.

What is sometimes neglected, however, is actually taking the time to be thankful, which some might say is a bit of an oversight since today is Thanksgiving, thanks to a proclamation made on Oct. 3, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, who presided over one of the darkest times in U.S. history — the Civil War — when the future of a still fledgling nation and democracy were decided on blood-soaked battlefields.

In that time of ultimate sacrifice and uncertainty, Lincoln said in his proclamation that “in the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, 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 theatre of military conflict. …”

Lincoln, whose young son died a year earlier, sought to remind Americans that we can’t succumb to fear and remind them that good still exists even during dark days.

Today, Americans also are feeling considerable angst. Our battlefields have moved to legislatures and Congress and are waged on social media websites. Sadly, America is once again a divided nation in many ways. For some, it is has become difficult to appreciate what they have against a back drop of what seems like endless enmity that is taking a toll on our collective conscious.

To some, a feeling of helplessness or rage makes it difficult to remember that we still have much to be thankful for in 2017. But, as President Lincoln said, we may need to work on being thankful.

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Instead of focusing on ourselves or hanging on to what angers us today, we need to reach out to others and tell them we are thankful for their presence in our lives. You can do this in a number of ways: You can look them in the eye and say thanks; you can call, text or send them an email; you can reach out and help someone you don't know and enjoy hearing a thank you in return; you can pray for others who are less fortunate.

According to experts, the attitude of gratitude pays dividends to those who practice it. It will improve your relationships, your physical and mental health, and your self-esteem. You will even sleep better, they say.

While enjoying all the activities that a holiday affords, it's important that we honor the real meaning of Thanksgiving and then practice it every day. It just might change how we feel about ourselves, our neighbors and our country, which remains a beacon of hope to many.

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