Gratitude makes everything better because gratitude, without fail, serves to improve our attitude.

And isn’t our attitude what really matters? How many apparently unhappy people do you see driving very expensive cars? Or complaining that their soup is too cold? Or too hot? How many times do we grumble about our lot in life just to be brought up short when we run into someone who is in real distress: someone who lost a job, their health, a loved one.

And isn’t it only then that we can say, “But for the grace of God go I?”

The Pilgrims arrived at the Plymouth Colony in November 1620. An inopportune time, considering it was too late to plant crops and the fierce Massachusetts winter was just settling in. With help from the native Indians, they avoided starvation and went ashore to build huts and a common house in March 1621. Only 53 of the original 102 souls survived the voyage.

Neighboring natives began to build relations with the Pilgrims and taught them how to catch eels and grow corn. The Pilgrims had a tradition of harvest festivals, but in November 1621, they had more than usual to celebrate. Wrote Edward Winslow, in Mourt’s Relation:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

And perhaps this is why America is so great. We carved out a holiday, a time specifically set aside, to be grateful.  We consider the pursuit of happiness to be an inalienable right. It is one special people that would make that part of their founding documents.

Most of us are, fortunately, far from starvation or in fear for our lives. But I plan to spend a few moments Thursday considering how truly blessed we Americans are.

God Bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!