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Live in Thanksgiving daily

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
Of the 102 people chosen to travel on the Mayflower, only 54 survived that first winter after landing in Plymouth in December of 1620. Their supplies exhausted, illness rampant and with little to no shelter, one young girl writes in her journal that she had just three kernels of corn to eat.

We know the rest of the story: the Native Americans came to their rescue and provided seed for planting crops and showed them which fish to eat. After a bountiful harvest the next fall, they sat down with these Native Americans to celebrate and give thanks. As H.U. Westermaye said, "The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."

That tradition of celebrating and giving thanks continued but it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln, in an effort to unify the northern and southern states, proclaimed the official date to be the last Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite observances because there's nothing better than when family and friends gather around the table and enjoy a favorite dish, a friendly smile and a warm heart. As we look forward to our holiday feast, I reflect on the bounteous gifts we enjoy and the great gift of living in our country.

Feelings of gratitude permeate our home, and that's a feeling we should try to capture year-round, and we can ... by living in thanksgiving daily. Those who do realize they have unlocked the fullness of life. It shouldn't be hard to recognize the good in our lives--it should be an effortless and natural state of being. When we are thankful, as author Melody Beattie states, "our problems turn into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events."

One tradition I've seen is to recount the story of the pilgrims and place three kernels of corn on each plate. Before digging into our feast, we take turns sharing three things we are thankful for. It's a way to help us stop and say out loud those things we are grateful for, but for which we may often take for granted. Robert Brault summed it up by saying, "There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude."

Living with thanksgiving daily means we can enjoy something as simple as taking a walk and appreciating the color on the leaves or the mild weather that lingers. It's a way to view the world around us and see the good in ourselves and others. It's a way to build resiliency, which then allows us to cope more effectively when negative things pop up in our lives. Do we live in thanksgiving daily and have gratitude for the work we do? Are we thankful for the mental and physical abilities to accomplish the work? Work can be demanding, and there are many long days that take us away from our loved ones, but being grateful to serve our nation gives me the energy to accomplish the tasks at hand. Being grateful that I have the health to go to work, deploy, fly and lead means that it's not drudgery.

Having the outstanding support systems around us--our families, friends, coworkers, leaders, Wingmen, helping agencies--means we can be more effective and balanced as we work, live and play.

There's an Estonian Proverb that says, "He who does not thank for little, will not thank for much." Let me express to you how thankful I am for all the small and big ways you make work a pleasant place to be, for your dedication to your teammates, and for your willingness to serve our nation.

While we enjoy this Thanksgiving time together, I am also profoundly aware and grateful every day for those serving in harm's way, far from friends and loved ones. They are in my thoughts daily, along with family members left behind. Let us continue to live with thanksgiving daily and do all we can to pass the gift of gratitude along to all those we come in contact with.