Thanksgiving joy

From the December 5, 1874 issue of the Saturday Evening Post:

“When the summer is past, and the beauty and bloom of the harvest garnered, while with full hands and warm hearts the year draw near its close, it is meet that we return thanks to the Giver of all good gifts for the rich largess of His seasons, that we settle our balance due of gratitude, and with a clear page open the reckoning of the year to come.

It must be admitted that but little of the spirit in which this anniversary was originally framed remains at the present day, and that Thanksgiving Day has somehow gained a special meaning as a day for family gatherings, and for being merry generally.

There’s a deep fund of vitality in the human breast, and the most solemn or most sorrowful observance cannot induce a major of the people to wear long face and penitential hearts. And who can blame them? We have all legitimate causes enough for depression without suffering ourselves to be legislated into the blues, while our hearts are merry and our horizons clear.

The right to laugh or cry is one of the reserved rights of the people, not delegated to Congress, but retained as a constituent of individual freedom.

So if we find indecorously joyful faces shaming the solemn occasion, we can console ourselves with the reflection that laughter is better than tears, and that the making of happy people is the crowning glory of a good government.

But now joy is our business. We celebrate the good that has come unto us. And God is best thanked for His gifts by clear brows and smiling faces. Then let us shout and be merry, eat our fill, and laugh to our heart’s content while east and west, north and south, the wail of the turkey is heard in the land.”

Where is the Milky Way?

Our family traveled to Bryce Canyon in August with the hope that we’d “see some stars.” Once the sun went down, we stood at Paria View (which we had all to ourselves) and gasped at the sheer numbers that were visible from that vantage point. The Milky Way sprawled directly over our heads across the entire sky. I was in tearful awe.

When I commented on how beautiful the Milky Way was to behold with the naked eye, Abby turned to me and asked, “Where?” I casually pointed to the bright white sheet that covered a significant portion of visible space.

“I don’t see it! Where is it?”

I pointed again and explained that the entire spectacle was the Milky Way. As we continued to smile at the sight, Abby grew mildly frustrated. “Over there? I don’t see it! Where is it?” She could not shake the idea that we were referring to a fixed point, or some specific star, and was jealous of our enthusiasm for having “found it” while she still searched. She good-naturedly began to laugh with the rest of us, though, as each of us proposed an alternative method for helping her understand that we were talking about the whole thing—to no avail.

Finally, I pulled Abby into my arms, took her little hand in mine, placed my cheek against hers, and drew her pointing hand all the way across the length of the visible Milky Way. “All of that?” she asked.

“Yes, Abby, all of it. That entire white cloud is actually billions of stars!” Abby smiled contentedly as she finally saw the glory of what had always been there. I wondered, then, what glories I remain blind to. Perhaps in years to come, I’ll sense the gentle arms of the Lord around me, and a still, small voice that simply whispers, “All of it.”

Be of good cheer

“It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time. There will be many happenings meanwhile which will serve to postpone, or end, or pass on to another person, the trials which are near or even in your very presence. A fire has opened the way to flight. Men have been let down softly by a catastrophe. Sometimes the sword has been checked even at the victim’s throat. Men have survived their own executioners. Even bad fortune is fickle. Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.”

Seneca in Letters from a Stoic