Put aside for a moment the stereotypical ideas of pilgrims in tall black hats carrying blunderbusses and Indians showing up with wild turkeys and dried corn, and imagine instead the stories that were told at the first Thanksgiving back in 1691. Through those stories two very different cultures met and attempted to understand one another. Over a meal of foods that were unusual to some and ordinary to others, some very interesting things must have been said. That we are still telling their story today indicates how significant a moment it was.

When George Washington declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, barely five years after the end of the Revolutionary War, it was an invitation for a nation of revolutionaries and loyalists to sit down together for dinner to talk about what they shared—and not what divided them.

When Abraham Lincoln called for a National Day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863, the terrible bloodshed at Gettysburg was still fresh in his mind. But even though the war would drag on for 18 more terrible months, it was clear that the Union would not fall. Lincoln asked that this day of thanks be celebrated “with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” It was a call back to a common table, where the stories of survival no less than the stories of pain could be told, and where a shared history could be reclaimed and saved. And the Union survived.

Today there are so many reasons to love Thanksgiving.  It is a no-gift-anxiety, non-political, non-sectarian celebration of gratitude for the blessings in our lives—from friends, family, food, and football to country, colleagues, and compassion. Saying thank you is like unlocking a door through which appreciation and blessing will come into our lives.

This year I’m particularly mindful of and thankful for the generations of Adventist HealthCare team members who decade after decade have provided the best of care and compassion to our patients, families, and communities.

A big thank you to our Adventist HealthCare team members who are caring for our patients and communities this Thanksgiving Day.  Your excellent care and compassion are an inspiration to us all.

Happy Thanksgiving!