The spirit of Thanksgiving

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Today is Thanksgiving Day in America.

It started when Americans, new to the new world, after a difficult year, celebrated their first harvest and thanked God. But in a sense, Thanksgiving is universal, not American. Underlying this celebration is the need and the desire to thank and celebrate family, friends, events, and things that make our lives better.

Indeed when the Gas in Ghana “hoot at hunger” by celebrating Homowo or the Fantes celebrate the conquest of plague and good harvests during the Fetu Afahye, they are doing Thanksgiving.

Even in sports, when Liverpool fans sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” while lifting the Champions League last May, or Hearts fans sang, “Arose, arose” in the dying moments of the “Miracle of El Wak” in 1977 and we all poured into the streets singing, ” Ye ye Asante man, Asante Kotoko” as Kalala blasted that penalty over the bar in Kinshasa in 1971 as Englebert fell to Kotoko, Thanksgiving was in the air.

On a personal level, reflecting on Thanksgiving makes me realize how much I owe to others– parents known and unknown, some family members, teachers, friends, mentors and kind strangers. I am sure you remember these people too. Seek them out and appreciate them while they are alive. And in gratitude, write a check to a charity or your old school to help others or a cause, if you can.

While at it, we must watch against fake thankfulness. The man who never thanks his father in the village but is always thanking and praising men in power and the woman who thanks those who open doors for her but disrespects the man who gives her chop money daily are a manipulative sycophant and a courteous ingrate respectfully,  not thankful people. And God sees through all our hearts.

Americans, in addition to family gatherings, tend to express their gratitude to God and their country through service. Are our politicians grateful people serving their country or opportunists feeding at the public trough?
Your guess is as good as mine.

As a black man, looking at the arc of history,  I am grateful for how far we have come as a race. I celebrate the people of Haiti– for their fight for independence that made them free as far back as 1804 and the black Americans who marched in Selma and Montgomery and other places and their victories in the civil rights struggle. They inspired mankind and changed history.

And for my country,  Ghana, I salute the Aborigines Rights Protection Society and the UGCC and Nkrumah for finishing the fight for independence and Grant and Danquah, for bringing him to join the fight and Gbedemah for holding the fort while he was in prison and the soldiers who marched and those who organized the riots for our  independence. But I also thank those who returned us to democracy– PMFJ, the Professional bodies, the students — men like Sam Okudzeto, JNA Attoh, Twumasi Boateng, John Bilson, Adu Boahen, the PNDC’s Justice Annan, the great journalists who were killed, imprisoned or “shit-bombed” including Tommy Thompson, Kweku Baako, Ben Ephson, Pratt and Harruna Attah– to mention but a few.

As a nation, we must develop the habit of celebrating people when they can do nothing to or for us. Last week, here in America, civil rights icon John Lewis showed how this is done when he lauded retiring conservative senator Isaacson of Georgia. “You were good for Georgia”, the Democratic Congressman said to his Republican colleague,  before walking over to give him a hug– as onlookers and America held its breath and its tears. Here in Ghana some leaders won’t even shake hands with others or sit by them at public events or funerals.
This Thnksgiving, let us resolve to do better– in Thanksgiving.

An absence of thankfulness makes a person unhappy and makes life less fulfilling. And it harms countries and societies.

Indeed, even those who have shown us hate sometimes aid our lives without intending to.
Let us give thanks even to those who strengthen us inadvertently by placing difficulties in our paths.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

May God bless you.

Source: Arthur Kobina Kennedy 

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