This year's Thanksgiving will be the second one since the Sept. 11 attacks and the war on the Taliban in 2001. And it may come just before a war against Saddam Hussein and what's been recently predicted as another "spectacular" hit soon on the US by Al Qaeda.
The last time Americans faced such dark circumstances - war with no end in sight and a threat to the homeland - was 60 years ago, or 11 months after Pearl Harbor, when World War II was at full pitch and hopes of peace were faint.
How were Americans back then able to celebrate a day of gratitude for blessings already received?
President Roosevelt, in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1942, chose to cite the Twenty-third Psalm ("The Lord is my shepherd") and its message of goodness even in "the shadow of death." This eloquent reminder to affirm basic truths is timeless, just as the Pilgrims saw eternal goodness at work after their hardship of 1621 and organized a feast of gratitude ("Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies").
The president who said not to fear fear itself may have picked this Biblical passage to remind Americans not to fear evil either. Even though President Bush today warns of "evil" states and "evildoers," the Psalm is immensely reassuring in its promise of present comfort and a future full of goodness and mercy. That so many people have relied on it in times of trouble is itself testament to the sheer power of its uplifting truth.
Thanksgiving is America's most-traveled holiday, a sign of the importance people place on being with family and friends as a way to renew the bonds of love and comfort. Such moments reflect the higher comfort and love that binds all peoples, even those who are warring with each other.