A public Thanksgiving


Fran Ostendorf, EditorThanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday whose origin is entwined with the very roots of our country. Even its centerpiece at the holiday table – the turkey – is native to North America.  

Most Americans, no matter their background or faith, celebrate Thanksgiving. If they don’t have a big holiday gathering, they at least pause, with a day off from work or school.  

From time to time, Gallup, the survey people, has questioned Americans about Thanksgiving. Holiday spending was the most recent topic. A decade ago, they asked questions about holidays and family and found that most people do gather together to reflect on what they have to be thankful for.

A 2002 article, “The Gallup Brain: Americans and Thanksgiving,” looked at Gallup polls as far back as 1939 and found some interesting Thanksgiving facts and trivia. During the course of some 60 years, the Gallup pollsters asked Americans at least six times what they were thankful for. Family was always high on the list, but not always at the top. When Americans were asked what they, personally, were most thankful for, “health” or “good health,” were the top responses in 1947, 1954 and 1990. In 1946, the year after World War II ended, good health was second to “war is over, world at peace.” The year after the Korean War, in 1954, “peace” was the top answer. Family finally pushed health from the top in 1996 and 2000.

Family and thankfulness seem to go hand in hand.

For my family, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where everyone gathers at our house. That usually means quite a few people. My family is not alone. According to Pew Research in 2010, about one-quarter of us expect 20 family members at the Thanksgiving table and 62 percent said that number would be 10 or more.

I’m figuring that there will be somewhere between those two numbers at my table this year. Occasionally we take the time to discuss what we are thankful for. Usually it’s pretty informal, but it’s a nice break from the hustle and bustle of trying to get the Thanksgiving feast on the table.

In the daily rush of a busy life, we often forget to take a minute and reflect on what is good about our lives. Somehow, it’s easier to remember the difficulties. And it’s especially easy to forget to say a public thank you.

What am I thankful for?

Well, as editor of The Voice, I’m thankful for all the readers, supporters and donors who help make this job worthwhile. I’m thankful for the advertisers who use us as a way to get their messages out to the community. I’m thankful for our small but loyal staff, which, week after week, produces a paper you want to read. And I must mention our contributors, who write for us and let us know what’s going on in the community – I’m thankful for them, as well as our volunteer proofreaders, who do their best to make sure mistakes in The Voice are few and far between. Our Editorial Advisory Group who offers advice and guidance deserves my thanks as well. And I’m thankful for my colleagues at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island who step up to help when we need information or an article or coverage we cannot provide.

Personally, I’m thankful for my fantastic family and friends. Now more than ever I realize how lucky I am to have a supportive network. I probably should say that more often.

So, in the next couple of weeks, don’t forget to take a minute and reflect on the positive things in your life – and perhaps say a public thank you, too.