By Greg Crosby,

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and it’s too bad, but it has become the step child of American holidays. Not that it is “forgotten,” it’s not. Everyone pretty much gets the big family meal concept. Most of us still do the Norman Rockwell turkey dinner where all in attendance stuff themselves silly and spend the remainder of the day and evening lying around on couches and passing out on floors moaning how we’ve eaten too much–again.

For many of us Thanksgiving means the Macy’s Parade, football games, and watching Miracle on 34th Street. But that’s about where it stops. Fortunately we can bring some much needed life to what should be a grand national holiday celebration. There are ways to add additional flavor to our Thanksgiving holiday if we remember, first and foremost, just what the day is all about. In other words, what makes Thanksgiving an important day to Americans?

Too few of us practice the true meaning of the day, which is giving thanks to God for our blessings. That’s what the Pilgrims did; they thanked God, not Mother Nature, not the trees and the wind, not good luck, they thanked God. As George Washington said in his Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

Washington went on to say that both houses of Congress have requested that he “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

One way you can personally put your thanks where your mouth is, so to speak, is by donating a bit of your time to helping those wonderful groups who put together care packages for our armed forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Operation Gratitude, Marine Parents, and the USO are just three of many such groups you can contact. There are several local groups like this in almost every town across the country.

As a run up to Thanksgiving there are some pretty good movies you might like to rent and watch with your family. We have already talked about Miracle on 34th Street, but Bing Crosby’s Holiday Inn (which is usually reserved for Christmas) is perfect for Thanksgiving too. Check out Plymouth Adventure from 1950 starring Spencer Tracy. There’s also a great Thanksgiving sequence in Doris Day’s By the Light of the Silvery Moon. And by the way, if you’ve never seen Planes, Trains & Automobiles you’re in for a delightful holiday treat. The picture stars Steve Martin and John Candy.

For the little ones there is a charming animated Rankin/Bass TV special from 1968 called The Mouse on the Mayflower. It isn’t easy to find, but it’s out there and a great way to introduce the kids to the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving. Then there’s the TV near-classic, Waltons: Thanksgiving Story. It is a wonderful holiday family show and if you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s worth watching again with your little ones.

Along with the games, the movies and the food, it would nice if more of us this year would take a few minutes out and really give thanks to God for the blessings we have been given. Having good health, a loving supportive family, and the presence of mind to appreciate the beauty in the world around us are all reasons to give thanks. Giving thanks is a humbling gesture, and in today’s world of selfishness and hyper-ego it is a gesture that is needed more than ever.

We can give a bit of thanks to our forefathers too, for all that they did in setting up this wonderful nation that we are so fortunate to call home. The United States of America is still the greatest country on Earth. And thanks to the finest men and women in our country, those brave Americans who voluntarily risk their lives to serve and protect us every day in the military. God bless them. And God bless the police officers, firefighters, and paramedics who also keep us safe and alive.

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