(Opinion) Cal Thomas: Have an attitude of gratitude this season

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When Abraham Lincoln issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863, it seemed like a special time to give thanks to many. The country was torn apart by civil war.

Still, Lincoln had much to thank God for, including America’s peace with other nations and “fruitful fields and healthy skies.” He didn’t dismiss or rationalize America’s price for that war, but he asked Americans to look up.

In the years that followed, it was a challenge to Americans for the events that destroyed our spirit of gratitude. These include Reconstruction (which hurt freed slaves in the South), World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Watergate, and the growing political cynicism that made many of us hate each other.

If Lincoln could look beyond temporal circumstances to the blessings that come from the “always waiting providence of Almighty God,” should we not?

I remember a song lyric, written long after Lincoln’s time, that reflected the attitude expressed in the proclamation: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, hang on to the positive, don’t mess with mr.” In Between.” The song was published in 1944 during World War II and recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. The second verse emphasizes the first: “You must spread the joy to the highest, bring the gloom to the lowest…”

OK, I know Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C., tried that approach in his recent presidential run, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong in pointing us to a better way. What is the alternative? More of the same harmful and frustrating behavior?

And that attitude has a song to go with it. “Problems, problems, problems all day long,” said the Everly Brothers. Anxieties, anxieties piled up on my head. Alas, I had to stay in bed.

Which attitude gives us the best hope for today and our collective future?

It’s a choice. We can embrace the positive, as Lincoln did, or we can focus on the problems, anger, and animosity and cultivate a spirit of gratitude and appreciation.

We are living in an age of entitlement that will shock our greatest generation. We are more financially affluent than previous generations, but that doesn’t seem to dampen our anger or our joy.

A Gallup poll found that more than 1 in 6 Americans — 18% — suffer from depression or are receiving treatment for depression. That’s up more than seven percent since 2015, when Gallup began polling on the topic. Of course, some of this is clinical depression, but could most of it be caused by focusing on negative events?

Lincoln often invoked God and scripture in his public speeches, perhaps as early as his 1863 proclamation when he said, “No human counsel devised, nor mortal hand wrought these great things.” They are the gifts of grace of the Almighty God, who thought of mercy when he turned away from us in anger because of our sins.

If our 16th president can say such things amid the many problems and challenges he has faced, shouldn’t we strive to give thanks this year and every Thanksgiving with a grateful heart?

Here is another song lyric that may help those struggling with gratitude: “I have a thankful spirit, a full and thankful heart. For good, bad, happy or sad. Dear Lord, help me to be grateful.

– Cal Thomas is a columnist for the Tribune Content Agency. Email him at tcaeditors@tribpub.com and look for his latest book, “The Night Watchman: Over 50 Years of American Reporting” (HumanixBooks).



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