Embrace true meaning of Thanksgiving

Today’s observance of Thanksgiving is about more than turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, family get-togethers and watching football.

This national holiday, falling on Nov. 22, also is a tragic anniversary in this nation’s history. It was 55 years ago today that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, plunging this nation into mourning and into a “lake” of uncertainty about what might lie ahead.

Americans alive at that time still can attest to how they were left in shock and pondering what might have been and what could have been, if the president hadn’t died.

And having watched the course of events in this country over the past 5¢ decades, some no doubt still are pondering those same questions, even as they sit down to enjoy a bountiful meal amid family members and/or friends.

But there is more that will be distracting people across America — including people here — from celebratory aspects of this day. It will be acknowledgment of how so many Americans’ lives this year have been ravaged by wildfires, hurricanes, senseless violence and other troubling circumstances.

In California, the search for wildfire victims goes on, with the death toll rising every day.

Many survivors of those horrific events, having lost virtually everything, see little cause for thanks or hope as they try to peer into the future. Even the fact that they escaped the infernos has provided little consolation for some, although they should be exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

For the most part, people of Blair County can be thankful today that their lives haven’t been impacted negatively in such ways, but that sense of relief doesn’t now — and never should — keep local people from feeling and displaying compassion and generosity toward those less fortunate and those in dire need — not only on Thanksgiving but on other days, too.

Fortunately, compassion and generosity are distinctive characteristics of people living here, and they are reasons why this county is such a great place to live.

But neither the Pilgrims who first settled in what now is this country, nor President George Washington, when he declared Nov. 26, 1789, a day of thanksgiving to express gratitude for the creation of the United States of America, envisioned how the simple expressions of thanks in which they engaged or promoted could become so entwined amid so many competing forces.

The capacity to give thanks remains, but often the competing forces relegate thankfulness into the background behind pressures of the day.

Blair County always must resist falling victim to that.

Individuals and families should, on this day, not fail to express gratitude for all the good that has come their way — their privilege of living in such a great country, as well as their good fortune in having relatives and friends who share their desire to make the most of opportunities in life.

People here should work to be a ray of hope for people saddled with misfortune or frail health.

And a point to emphasize to children is that Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday aimed just at grown-ups. Children should be reminded how much more meaningful the holiday is than merely being a day off from school.

The holiday feast is great, but Thanksgiving is greater when the bigger meaning behind it isn’t lost amid the excitement of the day.