“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” — Johannes A. Gaertner
When many of us hear the word “Thanksgiving,” we think of a day set aside for food, family, and football. Perhaps we will take a moment before dinner to share what we are thankful for and to reflect on the ways in which God has richly blessed us. Traditions vary in families and communities across the country. In my family, we start with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and eat pumpkin pie in our pajamas, we name our turkey, and we end the day with a wonderful feast cooked by Veronica that we devour — in our pajamas.
In fact, the tradition of Thanksgiving stretches well beyond our nation and our individual traditions, as many cultures around the world set aside time to give thanks.
Our neighbors to the north celebrated Thanksgiving last month, with a celebration linked to the tradition of harvest festivals in Europe and highlighted with cornucopias that symbolize bountiful feasts. In Brazil, Día de Ação de Graças offers an opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to God for the abundant harvest and for God’s blessings. Many rural and religious communities across Germany celebrate Erntedankfest, a harvest festival of thanks. In Japan, Thanksgiving is a way to say thanks for the harvest and to acknowledge the hard work of farmers. And in India, Christians celebrate Thanksgiving, known by different names in different parts of the country, as a way to give thanks for flourishing wealth.
Just as Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout the world, so too should the act of gratitude be lived throughout the year. For as art historian Johannes A. Gaertner reminds us, true gratitude has the opportunity to be more than words. When we embody gratitude in our daily lives, when we approach each day with a grateful heart and aware of our many blessings, it touches each part of our life and those around us.
At Valpo, we have so much for which to be thankful: friends, colleagues, and classmates; a growing campus filled with diversity of perspectives, cultures, expressions, and talents; extraordinary student organizations, clubs, and teams; and captivating events that enrich us and bring us together. And we can be especially thankful for our institutional ethos, as a University committed unequivocally to the common pursuit of Truth and to dialogue and mutual respect across our differing perspectives and experiences.
I am truly thankful to count you all among the blessings God has gifted Valparaiso University. And I want to thank you for all that you do to make this University a distinctive and inviting place where people of all traditions and cultures can pursue their passions and find their purpose.
I hope this Thanksgiving you will join me in taking a few moments to express your gratitude and appreciation for all the blessings we have received this year and that you will continue to live out your gratitude not only at this time, but in the weeks and months ahead.
Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.