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"Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun."

--Ecclesiastes 8:15

I magine a holiday dedicated to being thankful. How American! In what other country does the founding document mention the pursuit of happiness? Answer: none other. We're it, baby.

If your heart's beating, and you're free from chains, dance. As an American, your duty is to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Not to mention leisure, refreshment and amusement. And, while we're at it, let's set aside a whole day in the middle of the work week to celebrate those thoughts.

What other people would think up a whole holiday just to eat, drink and be merry? No flowers for mom, no chocolate for the lady, no staying awake to midnight to count down the seconds. (Some of us won't stay awake until dark.) No presents to unwrap--and before that, buy. Can it all be as simple as sitting down with family and eating? And praying? And watching football? And not necessarily in that order.

How American to take an entire Thursday to celebrate the blessings of Providence. And then get ready for the very next day, in which we give thanks for merchandising. ("The business of America is business."--President Calvin Coolidge.)

The ancient Romans would understand. Didn't they have a god named Janus that looked to the past and future? And wasn't he the god of birth, and travel, and exchange?

Even in 2020, when some of us won't be dragged to the store to fight the crowds--and our public health officials are begging us not to--commerce won't stop. Even during a pandemic, folks will nudge each other's elbows in the virtual crowd, getting the best deals for the next holiday. Perhaps only a pandemic can stop Americans from driving to the store. But even a pandemic can't stop Americans from shopping. Take that, virus.

T HERE hasn't been a Thanksgiving like this one in ... . well, forever. There hasn't been a year like 2020, either. (Another thing to be thankful for, if you're looking.)

Sure, it is another wartime Thanksgiving, as was the last one and the one before that. As much as we'd like to go to sleep and forget about the dangers of the world, the enemy is always looking to break through.

Today we give thanks first and last for our own peace and security and for all those who provide it, and who may be otherwise engaged today--above or in Syria, above or in Afghanistan, above or in places that maybe the rest of us don't know about and might not want to know about. ("I'm not afraid of the gray wolf, who stalks through our forest at dawn."--Randy Newman.)

Today we think of those families where one place at the table will always be empty. And we are reminded that there are some debts that can never be repaid.

As earlier generations have done and Americans to come surely will do, this generation confronts an historic challenge: its rendezvous with destiny. Has there ever been a war that wasn't described as entirely new and unprecedented, and as requiring new and unprecedented responses? ("The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." --Abraham Lincoln, Dec. 1, 1862.)

Of all the things that have changed since this nation was founded--after another war, lest we forget--let us be thankful that some things have not changed, like the dedication of still another generation of Americans doing their duty. Let us pray the rest of us will be worthy of them.

And this year let us recognize, and give thanks for, all those doctors and nurses and all the other people who are generally, and unfortunately, called "health-care providers." As much as we dislike the term, Americans have once again discovered the breed. Much like we rediscovered cops and firefighters after 9/11, We the People have rediscovered how much nurses and doctors--and hospital clerks and clinic specialists--sacrifice for the rest of us. Sometimes with their lives. We give thanks today for those who take off their masks and gloves to choke down a turkey sandwich in a hospital today, in perhaps their only recognition of the holiday.

And when they crash-land on their pillows tonight after a double shift, may they have the sleep of a good conscience. They deserve it. And much more.

A mericans have grown so accustomed to our blessings that we may take even Thanksgiving for granted. We shouldn't. Let us count our blessings deliberately. Today we are especially grateful for:

Those who make it a blessing for the rest of us. For those who stand on the wall, whether it be a corporal in Iraq or a police sergeant in a large American city. For the truck drivers who will still--still!--be sighted on the interstates today. For the waitress who didn't get the day off. For the priest who will make an emergency call. For the firefighter who makes the next one.

For the peace that descends at the end of the day when the guests depart and all the rituals--from grace before dinner to the plans for coming Christmas trips--have been fully observed.

For friends who make life sweet in the good times, bearable in the bad, and who, because they stick by us when we don't deserve it, teach us true grace. Even if this year we celebrate with them via phone or Internet. This pandemic can't end soon enough.

For the labor that goes into Thanksgiving and produces such delectable results. Let us give thanks for the groaning board: for turkey and dressing, for cranberry sauce and yams, and for pies--pumpkin and mincemeat and Karo nut and sweet potato. Yes, we'll save room. We always save room.

Let us give thanks for leaving and for arriving. For the look of two-lane highways twisting through the Ozark hills in the early morning. And for the long ribbons of blacktop stretching forever through the flat, rich, green Delta where you can see the immensity of the sky--if only you remember to look up.

The names of people and places. For girls with two names (Bailey Lynn, Bobbie Sue). For nicknames for boys (Bubba, Bo). For the names of Arkansas towns: Smackover and Hope. Pine Bluff and Flippin and Delight. Little Rock and Big Rock Township, Natural Steps and Toad Suck and Pickles Gap Village. Don't forget Calico Rock and Snowball and Standard Umpstead. Let us give thanks for Friendship, Amity and Romance; for Sweet Home, Welcome, and Needmore; for Evening Shade and Morning Star. Arkansas even has a Ralph, Waldo, and Emerson.

And finally, we're thankful for you, our readers, for whom we write and report, and for the Providence that has preserved us, sustained us, and has let us all reach this day together. Be safe. And a good appetite to you!

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