Thankful Realism

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln


On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I score as an INTJ.

In nutshell, this means that I am energized by being alone, I am ruthlessly pragmatic, and I am constantly tormented by all the things in the world that are not working as they should (or could) be.

Being thankful is difficult for me. It feels unproductive. It feels like a waste of time and energy.

Why should I pause to be thankful when so much of the world is still broken?

The truth is, the more we fix in the world, the more we uncover other layers that need fixing. It is (to crib Weber) like, "the slow boring of hard boards."


As I continue to age, I've learned to accept the "usefulness" of being thankful for the things in my life.

Some of them are little things:
- that point where my laughter becomes uncontrollable
- the perfect cup of coffee
- discovering a book that I know I will read more than once
- my children hugging my legs when I walk in the door
- a pub that has Boddington's on tap

Some of them are larger things:
- a friend's surgery that was successful
- being a part of a church family that is committed to a life beyond their own wellbeing
- laws that uphold the freedom of expression
- organizations that care for the poor and the marginalized
- Mandela, King, Douglass, Carter- and yes, Lincoln

It's important to take time to pause and look up from the screen, the lathe, or the plow, and acknowledge the good that has been accomplished by our efforts.


It's also important to thank those who helped us along the way.

There is great power in "thank you."

If you don't believe me, try it over the holidays.

Stop whatever it is you're busy with at the moment, turn to someone in your life, look them straight in the eye and say, "thank you for ____________."

Depending on their personality, they'll either light up or become uncomfortable, but that's okay. The words will sink in. There will be a quickening and bond that you will sense beneath the surface of the the visible world.

This is the power of "thank you."

It says, "I see you. I acknowledge you. You matter. I noticed what you did."


Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation is a good example of "thankful realism."

He is, without apology highlighting all that is still broken, but he's also saying that we need to pause and be thankful for all that has been improved.

His words are as relevant to us today as they were in 1863.

There is still a lot of work to be done in our country and in our world, but there's also a lot of good that has been accomplished.

So we will keep working, making frequent stops along the way to rest the engines. We'll look at the road behind us and those standing beside us, thankful for the entirety of the journey.

Happy Thanksgiving.