Learn Thanksgiving From The Have-Nots
( Originally Published 1916 )
THE President has proclaimed the annual day of Thanksgiving. Possibly that comes to you as a joke. What have I to be thankful for? you ask, and then begin to run over the list of your grievances.
But go and see the have-nots, and maybe you will learn something, if you are not a hopeless whiner.
Visit the have-not nations. Live a while in Russia or Mexico, have your opinions suppressed, your property confiscated, your life threatened, all without justice; perhaps then you may get a few thrills when you look at the American flag.
Return, in your mind, to former ages; feel how it seems to have the nobility despise, curse, and rob you, and treat you as a dog; to have a state church clap you in prison or roast you in the public square for daring to think; to have solemn magistrates condemn your mother to be hanged as a witch; to have your daughters outraged by the lord of the manor and your sons killed fighting his battles.
If your skin is black, go back sixty years and live among the have-nots of Liberty, and be sold in the market place as a chattel.
If you are well, turn to the have-nots of health, to the hospitals, where the crowded prisoners of pain would give the world to walk and eat and work as you now do. Go to the dim chamber of the invalid, listen to the consumptive's cough, the dyspeptic's groan, the raving of the fevered and moan of the suffering and smitten. Then, if you are anything of a man, come out and hire some one to kick you for complaining ever.
The have-nots of sound; observe the deaf and dumb, not to gloat over your advantages, but to realize what music and the voices of people and the gift of speech mean to you.
Watch the pathetic faces of the have-nots of light; and, seeing the blind, learn to be humbly grateful toward that fate that grants to you the light of heaven.
Do you know the have-nots of love? Consider them, and if one heart ever so simple loves you, be thankful. Mark the deserted wife, her dream shattered, her heart broken, her children father-less, and the burden of care upon her shoulders; and, if you have a husband that's half decent, be thankful.
Go to the wronged, betrayed husband; look upon him; and if you have a faithful wife who believes in you and is glad because of you, be thankful.
Little girl, little boy, have you a mother that hugs you up, and a daddy that's proud of you? Think of the have-nots, the boys and girls whose mother is still and gone or whose father is no more, and be as thankful as you can.
Have you children? Call to mind the have-nots, the mother whose loneliness is that most bitter of all, the loneliness of the empty arms, of a breast where once cuddled a curly head.
Then think of the worried, wretched, remorseful, perverted, of all those whose conscience stings them, and, if you have the comfortable self-respect .of decency, be thankful.
Visit, in your mind, the wide realm of the dead and half-dead. You have the unspeakable gift of LIFE. You can walk in the sun, and breathe the sweet air, and get the message of trees, mountains, and ocean; for you the flowers blow, and the snow falls, and the hearth-fire burns, and children's voices sound, and the light of love kindles in some one's eyes.
Be thankful for life.
Think of the have-nots, and reflect. Who am I that I should not also be among them?