“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
— Meister Eckhart
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a day set aside for food, family, parades, and football — or maybe the Westminster Dog Show. Many will take a moment before dinner to share what we are thankful for and to reflect on God’s rich blessings. Traditions vary in families and communities across the country. In my family, we name our turkey before it goes into the oven, I write the annual Christmas letter while eating pumpkin pie in my pajamas, and Veronica plans her Black Friday strategy for the grandkids’ presents.
Beyond our individual traditions and our national understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday, the call to give thanks can be found in cultures around the world.
This year we celebrate our close connection to the nation of Germany, a country in which many rural and religious communities commemorate Erntedankfest, a harvest festival of thanks. Our neighbors to the north enjoyed Thanksgiving last month, with a celebration linked to the tradition of harvest festivals in Europe and accentuated by 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. In Japan, Thanksgiving is a way to say thanks for the harvest and to acknowledge the hard work of farmers. And in India, Christians recognize 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 the 14th century German philosopher and theologian Meister Eckhart suggests, to say thank you is to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all of life’s blessings. 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 lives 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, the embodiment of excellence and human virtues, and 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 together we pursue Truth, serve generously, and cultivate hope.
I hope this Thanksgiving you will join me in taking a few moments to offer prayers of “thank you” 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.