Thanksgiving renewal

Do these seem foreboding times in which to celebrate Thanksgiving Day? Then an extra measure of thankfulness is needed from Americans as they gather in homes and churches for their harvest holiday. For what better way to give that obdurate economy a nudge than by lifting the spirits? And what better way to lift the spirits than by pausing to remember just how well off the nation basically is?

''Are we really grateful for the good already received?'' asked the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy. ''Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.''

This is not a call for grin-and-bear-it optimism. Indeed religious thinkers from time immemorial have recognized the power of praise to invigorate courage and quicken resolve. Political leaders, too, have stirred men to uncommon achievement by turning their thoughts from the burdens at hand to the possibilities beyond. Recall how Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at a time of national desperation, buoyed the nation by declaring that the ''only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.''

These words are relevant today, with so much uncertainty in the air. Economists and political leaders seem to be looking less for some magical prescription to end the recession and start up the engine of economic growth than for a more confident public mood - a growing willingness on the part of businessmen and consumers to act as if they had faith in the country's future.

This is where gratitude comes in. It helps keep a perspective on problems, dispels gloom, revives hope. America has nothing to fear. It has an abundant land, a resourceful people, a vigorous democracy - and a unique heritage of religious freedom. Its history is replete with examples of adversity surmounted and victories won. Why should it be thought that the current challenges will not be overcome?

For Americans to remember the good in their lives is not to forget or ignore the nation's difficulties - the millions of jobless, the business failures, the idled factories. Indeed gratitude finds its highest expression in the heart's embrace of all those who are in need, who are discouraged, who don't know where to turn. The opportunity of this Thanksgiving season will be lost if it does not find Americans reaching out to each other with a special measure of caring and giving.

Such generosity can be anchored in a recognition of the divine source of all good. With the great Giver at the helm, the nation can only look forward to continued peace and bounty.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.