As someone who is estranged from the faith of my upbringing, the idea of “giving thanks” raises some challenges in me.
…I am not thankful as much for them as I am to them…
I still believe in the idea of gratitude, and I believe that being in a mindset of gratitude has beneficial results in our lives. However, I don’t believe in any first source that I should be grateful to for things like striking sunsets and infinite starlit skies and beautiful animals. For those things I try to focus on them with the amazement that such things should inspire in anyone with imagination and any degree of humility.
For other things—tangible things—I try to find the first source that I can get to in order to give thanks.
For the riches of our country? Thanks to the countless people who struggled to create our country and its vast infrastructure. Thanks to the people who have contributed to that infrastructure, both in the past and especially in the present, whether directly (by building it) and indirectly (by supporting it with their contribution of taxes for the very purpose of improving our country).
For friends and family? I remember that I am not thankful as much for them as I am to them: for continuing to be a part of my life, for putting up with me at my worst, for the very efforts they make in their lives to make the world a better place.
For the food on my table? I am thankful to the people who grow the plants and raise the animals. I am grateful to the people who work to get the food from the farm to where I can purchase it. I am grateful to those who provided my spouse and me (and those who join us and bring food with them) with our educations and our opportunities to excel, and therefore to provide for ourselves.
Being thankful to people—and letting them know at every opportunity that I am thankful to them—seems a much more positive way to express my thanks than platitudes or prayers.
Arthur Breur is a composer and web developer currently living in the Portland suburb of Durham, Oregon. He recently completed a commission to compose a military "theme" march for the US Army's 44th Air Defense Artillery. His web development company, FireSpike LLC has been in business since 2001.