There is much to be thankful for, but it should not be taken for granted

Each year, on the last Thursday in November, Americans remember their own good fortune, and that of the country’s early colonial settlers, with the holiday of Thanksgiving.

They go to extraordinary lengths to travel to gather for the holiday, which also makes it a time for family reunions. A winter feast – often including the legendary roast turkey and pumpkin brought by Native Americans to the hungry settlers – is enjoyed and gratitude to God is expressed for all that has been given them.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited soldiers at Fort Bragg this week to mark the Thanksgiving holiday.Credit:AP

While Australia doesn’t share the historical background to initiate such a holiday here, we can certainly identify with setting aside a time for gratitude. The news reminds us daily how lucky we are to live in our cohesive, law-abiding society. For 18 days, the fate of one missing child was one of the nation’s top concerns. How many other countries have the luxury to focus on one small individual?

That we can is a testament to our comparatively low rate of crime. We are still rightly appalled by injustice and corruption and can largely trust our institutions to keep us safe. Importantly, for all its faults, our political system works to maintain a robust but peaceful electorate.

Our COVID-19 response has also largely been one to be grateful for. Although too many have suffered badly from lost work and mental illness, the communal fight against the virus has been a reminder of how fragile and dear life is to us all, and that we should never take good fortune for granted.

The reverse side of gratitude is the obligation to take care of what has been given to us. We are entrusted to look after ourselves and each other and our precious environment. There is never a better time than the present to be thankful for what we have, and to work towards ensuring the future is one in which we would want to live.

Thanksgiving reminds us that we don’t earn the best things in our lives. The people we love, the work and leisure we enjoy, are gifts that are wonderfully, inexplicably bestowed upon us. “This day has taken our lives to arrive,” writes the poet, Robert Adamson. The present moment is so full – how can we not give thanks for something so glorious as life?

“To live without regret” has been the goal of much-loved former AFL player and coach Neale Daniher. Despite the progress of motor neurone disease, he is making the best of each day. His words are an injunction to us to make the most of our precious days by packing them with maximum love, courage – and thanks.

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