Looking Back

AS WE prepare a feast for tomorrow and offer thanks to God for all our blessings, it is customary to look back over the past year. It is also appropriate at this time of year to look further back to past centuries, all the way to those who established this new world.

The intervening ages have taken away most of their names, but certainly there are multitudes of benefactors to whom we owe thanks for the amenities, the decencies, the securities of life.

We today are the legatees of great riches from times remote; riches of mind and spirit as well as those out of the good earth and the labor of many hands. But gratitude has two faces, like the Roman god Janus, who looked two ways.

The thankful spirit at Thanksgiving probes the future as well as surveys the past, and knows that if gratitude is sincere, it will produce the will to settle in advance our accounts with those who are to follow us.

And how else can this be done except to ensure for posterity, as best we may, the blessings and benefits we have been given; to increase them where possible, and never leave them diminished or impaired.

The nature of this bequest to the future we all know: The bountiful land unspoiled of its wealth or its beauty; the liberty that lets us work, think, plan and worship as free people; a body of law and customs which are both just and humane; and faith in God, our country, in our selves and our fellow man.

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” as the psalmist has written. A good thing for Americans especially. We are the most fortunate of all earth’s peoples, despite our worries and concerns.

It is not good to give thanks in the mood of smug superiority because we have been so lavishly blessed, but, rather, humbly thankful in the knowledge that it is ours to plot the future as well as remember the past.

It is ours to forge the sword of the spirit for the coming generations to fight with. Ours to fashion the tools for the work of later hands. Ours to lay straight and smooth the road for the march of other feet. Ours to advance still farther those mighty movements which since the beginning have humanized mankind.

It is through this and only this that we live our thanks.