My wife Jen and I are off to Israel to teach for a week (see flyer below). For the first time, we won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with our children. Although we would much prefer to be with our children, family, and friends on this and every other holiday, we recognize that this is a unique opportunity for us to share knowledge that is greatly needed. And we are grateful for this opportunity.
In reflecting on the meaning of Thanksgiving, it’s obvious that although we often focus on the food, the true essence of the holiday is to take the time to be thankful, and to express our gratitude. I’ve heard Thanksgiving referred to as the birthday of America’s soul, and I like that thought.
The practice of gratitude expresses appreciation not only for blessings received but also for personal relationships built on giving and sharing. I think of gratitude as acceptance, affirmation and new growth in relationships among people and between people and God.
As we cultivate gratitude, we can also strive to live in a harmonious way, cultivating harmony within, harmony with each other, and harmony with nature, our external environment. Harmony and balance apply to all aspects of life, and it is through each of these relationships that we grow.
As an herbalist, I also thank God for the healing plants of the world that offer boundless support for our health and wellbeing. Even the common herbs we use in our Thanksgiving meals—such as sage and thyme— offer a wealth of health promoting properties. For example, sage (Salvia off.), which contains ursolic acid and carnosol, has been shown to prevent all chronic diseases, enhance memory and brain health, reduce cholesterol and improve lipid metabolism, slow aging, improve skin health, inhibit cancer, and appears to be as effective as the drug metformin for controlling blood glucose and insulin levels. (In one study, researchers found that replacing water with sage tea for 14 days lowered the fasting plasma glucose level in mice in a way similar to metformin.)
The celebration of Thanksgiving offers us an opportunity for reflection, gratitude, and generosity. The most direct and immediate way to solve the problems of our world is to begin within our own human heart. Once God has opened our hearts, then we can begin to make a real difference in our families, our communities, and among our coworkers and friends. I pray for God’s blessing on all of you this Thanksgiving; may He give strength to all of us in Faith, Hope, Charity and Love.
“Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds.” Letter of Paul to the Philippians 4: 6-7