Opinion: Challenges of holidays past still show way forward

The first rough drafts of history that are newspapers can offer valuable perspective during the year-end holidays. They prove that troubled times are nothing new to our country, and world.

A Thanksgiving Day 1967 column by The Atlanta Constitution’s Ralph McGill, reprinted here today, included this paragraph that could have been written right now: “The winter is cold. There are new graves. There are the fearful. There are those who want to turn back. There are the disloyal and the fanatically dissenting. But there is much today for which to be thankful. The long, hard, symbolic winter will end. There will be a summer and a good sustaining harvest for those who endure.” McGill even used the word “terror” in his missive of half a century ago. It meant the same thing then, as now.

Americans in bygone days persevered, as we must do today. An excerpt from the Thanksgiving Day editorial of 1942’s The Atlanta Constitution remains relevant, one wartime age speaking to another:

“We, with all the world, are passing through a time of tribulation and of trial. Yet, slowly but surely, we are awakening to the truth that out of this trial we are gaining something of immeasurable value.

For we are learning to understand our brothers, all over the world, better. We are learning the truth of Thine ancient wisdom; that it is more blessed to give than to receive; that all men are their brothers’ keeper; that only through sacrifice shall the bread of happiness return to us in manifold degree.

True, we weep as we hear of the death in battle of our loved ones. But even then, dear Lord, we are thankful they were granted the privilege of dying, as die we all must, for a cause that makes death glorious and that shall enshrine their names for all time among the company of the heroes and the saints. And we pray, even as we give thanks, that we may forget the failures that have gone before and look only forward to the victories of the spirit that are to come.

Let us then, as we give thanks for all the blessings of yesterday and today, realize we fight, always, the forces of material and of spiritual evil, not to retain the old and faulty ways we have known, but to create a better and a nobler world. A world, dear Lord, that shall lift humanity, made in Thy image, nearer to Thee.

This, dear Lord, be our prayer on this Day of Thanksgiving, this year of the war, 1942.”

A look back reaffirms the importance of never taking for granted either the simplest or grandest things of this fleeting life. That’s worth remembering as we enjoy fellowship with friends and family this Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend.

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