From Cornfield Philosophy, by C. D. Strode, Illustrated, Chicago: The Blakely Printing Co., 1902; pp. 68-75.
THOUGHTS ON THANKSGIVING.
There is, it seems to me, too much carelessness and lack of system in most people’s method, or lack of method, of observing Thanksgiving Day. To my mind everything is better for having a little system and order introduced into it. A good many people go running around on Thanksgiving Day bubbling over with thankfulness, and if you stop one of them and ask him what he is thankful for he will either be unable to tell you or he will be thankful for that for which he has no business to be thankful, for which, in fact, he should be ashamed.
Such a course does not meet my approval. I believe in being thankful, but one should be thankful intelligently. Life is so short and there is so much to be done that one cannot afford to make false motions or rattle around unnecessarily. Every motion must be made to count, every edge be made to cut. So let us not waste 69 all the thankfulness of our hearts without knowing to what end or upon unworthy objects
Nor do I wish to be critical or niggardly; and once we have ourselves organized we will give good measure, heaped up and overflowing.
* * *
I hope you have been prosperous this year, for prosperity is a good thing to be thankful for, provided it be honestly come by; but if you have gained prosperity by taking advantage of the trust others have reposed in you or by taking advantage of your fellow man’s misfortune, I trust you will not have the nerve to go before the Lord and thank Him for it. Such prosperity does not come from the Lord. It comes from the devil, and if you give thanks at all, give them to the devil. Don’t insult the Lord by thanking him.
But if you have prospered honestly — if by reason of your industry, forethought and frugality you are reasonably free from financial worry and are able to feed your family on Thanksgiving turkey, you are a fortunate man and should give thanks accordingly.
You should also give thanks for adversity. Prosperity honestly come by is a good thing for any man, but so is adversity — provided it be met in the proper spirit. It takes adversity to develop a strong and noble character. No man was ever made great and good and strong by uninterrupted prosperity. It takes adversity. Adversity makes bone and muscle; prosperity makes only fat. Many a man has gone through life and missed the best things in it because of too much prosperity. So if, in the past year, you met adversity and bore yourself manfully, go down on your knees on Thanksgiving Day and thank the Lord with all your soul. If you have the proper stuff 70 in you, one year of adversity will do more for you than a dozen years of prosperity. The only qualities worth having are honesty, industry and frugality. It takes adversity to develop these qualities and they lead to prosperity.
Prosperity honestly come by and adversity bravely borne are things for which all men should give thanks. If a man is a thief and a coward — if he is too greedy to be honest and too weak to be brave, then he has little cause to be thankful and the Lord owes him an apology for creating him in such fashion. For I am not of those who relieve the Lord of all responsibility in the matter.
* * *
I believe a man should maintain his self-respect in all his relations in life, including his relation with the Almighty. It is true man is nothing but a little insect inhabiting an atom of creation which is whirling through space, but that is no reason he should grovel in the dust in slavish fear.
God put him here, it is fair to presume, for some purpose, and when he has done his duty to the best of his light and ability the obligation is mutual. When a man has done his best he has done all that an angel can do and is entitled to look all the universe, including the Almighty, squarely in the eye.
So, in giving thanks, I think that the man who has done his best should maintain his self-respect. I tell you frankly that I do not hold with some that the Lord is showing me a great mercy that He holds back the cliffs from falling on me or the waters of the earth from overflowing the land and drowning me. The Lord put me here for some purpose of His own; when He is through 71 with me He will take me away; and when I have done my best we’re square.
You’d rather have the service of the self-respecting man, wouldn’t you? The man who wants to earn his wages and call it even, in all kindliness and good feeling? Certainly you would.
You don’t want the services of the spineless creature who is willing to cringe and crawl and lick your boots? Certainly you don’t, and you have no right to insult the Almighty by supposing that such service is acceptable to Him.
Suppose you had a man in your employ whom you had employed because you needed his services, to whom you had been kind and who had been prosperous in your service; and suppose he should decide that he would take a day off to celebrate his good fortune and acknowledge his obligation to you.
Suppose that having come to that conclusion he should come down to your office in the morning and spend the whole day singing your praises and bewailing his own orneriness? Suppose he would insist on repeating, over and over, what a great, wise and powerful creature you are and what infinite kindness you display in not jumping onto him and kicking out a lung? What would you think of that for a thanksgiving?
No. It would be all right for the man to come down to the office in the morning and bring his wife and children, all dressed up clean and neat, marshal them into the office, take off his hat and express himself as being obliged to you for the kindness you had shown him in the past, which he hopes and believes he has deserved, and which he trusts you will continue to show and he to deserve for some time to come. That would be all right. Then you’d want him to take the family out to have a 72 good time and wind up with a modest blowout in the evening. Certainly you would, and if he hadn’t money enough you’d donate a fiver yourself.
* * *
It was a curious conception of God which our respected forefathers had. They believed that the great Creator of the Universe was of such a temperament that if man, being just a little species of bug, on an infinitesimal atom of creation, didn’t do just thus and so, and believe just this and that, he would be put into hell’s torments and kept there forever and ever and evermore; and the only way to propitiate this terrible being was to lie in the dirt on your back, stick up your paws in the air like a dog expecting a whipping and squawk the Creators’ praises in the bug language.
Their idea of Heaven was also peculiar. As one of their hymn writers expressed it
“When I’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
I’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when I first begun.”
The man who wrote that hymn should have been put in jail for sacrilege. The idea that the Lord would be pleased by having a lot of little creatures singing his praises for 10,000 years is sacrilegious.
I don’t believe such service is acceptable to the Lord and I would not enter on Thanksgiving Day in any such a spirit. I believe the Lord is built on broader lines than that. It is true that man is only a species of bug, but when he has done his best he is entitled to walk with his head up.73
Here is my idea of a good way for a man to spend Thanksgiving Day:
He should not fail to go to church in the morning, take the whole family and join heartily in the worship. Then he should go home and eat as good a dinner as he can afford, eating turkey if he can afford it, and if not, being thankful over a plate of rabbit.
After dinner he and his family should spend the day in such a manner as well bring them the greatest amount of wholesome, healthful enjoyment. After supper it would be well to gather about the piano or organ and sing a few old-fashioned hymns, such as “Rock of Ages,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and so on, go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
After a day spent in such manner, a man arises refreshed and invigorated and more determined to get his share of the business than ever.
The old idea that Thanksgiving Day was a day to be spent in self-abasement and solemnity was handed down to us by our Puritan ancestors along with the old idea of the Almighty. These people were the so-called Pilgrims who landed in this country away back there three or four hundred years ago, took possession of a lot of land that did not belong to them, killed such of the Indians, the rightful owners, as didn’t like it and then set aside a day to return thanks to the Almighty for His mercies. And each year they stole more land, killed more Indians and gave more thanks. I have never heard, though, that the Indians have ever held a day of thanksgiving, from the day our hustling forefathers landed down to the present day.
* * *
The foregoing constitutes some thoughts on thanksgiving and some suggestions pertaining thereto which 74 are calculated to enable you to start in on your thanksgiving with a clear conception as to what you intend to do and why you intend to do it.
So far we have only treated of Thanksgiving Day in a general way. We have this year many special causes for thanksgiving which we should not overlook.
As a cornerstone for all our thanksgiving we should be grateful that it was allowed us to be born in such a blessed country. It seems to me it would be difficult to stir a nation to an expression of thanksgiving where the laws are unjust and cruel.
After all the demagogues and agitators have said, all men are equal before the law in this blessed country and one has as good opportunities as another. A man may lack the character to command success, but he has the consolation of knowing that there is no bar to his children sitting in the highest places, save such as are erected by their own inefficiency.
This is the most fruitful country and it has the best government of any in the world to-day, or of any which has ever been in the world. So let us give thanks for that.
Then we should be thankful that the grim spectre of Hard Times no more stalks abroad in the land. Let us give thanks that there is no man who need be idle or hungry in this great land to-day if he is able to work. It is a gracious blessing, that of being provided with employment at fair wages, or of receiving fair remuneration for energy and enterprise in business.
There are, then, many special causes for thanksgiving, each man having his proportion, and one about as many as another. Each should consider those causes for himself and give thanks accordingly.75
An important essential to a successful Thanksgiving is that a man shall cast out of his heart all enviousness. No man can properly give thanks for his Thanksgiving rabbit while envying his neighbor his Thanksgiving turkey. Remember also to be humble in your thankfulness. I have heard men offer thanks in a way which seemed very much like boasting before the Lord.
I consider it important that you be reminded of these things. To see this nation of people, the greatest and most enlightened of any in the world, devoting a day to standing uncovered before the Lord and returning thanks for guidance in the past and praying for guidance in the future, is an impressive sight, and with all the growth of our wealth and power the returning thus once a year to a realizing sense of our dependence on the Lord, and the public acknowledgment of such dependence, is a beautiful and wholesome custom.