Donald Conkey: Be grateful for our common blessings as Americans
by Donald Conkey
November 18, 2010 12:00 AM | 850 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Today begins Thanksgiving week 2010. Just before drafting this column, I read a piece by Thomas S. Monson titled "The Divine Gift of Gratitude." Monson's talk led me to reread a favorite hymn, "Count Your Blessings," whose first verse reads: "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done." The chorus reads: "Count your blessings; Name them one by one. Count your many blessings; see what God hath done." Inspiring words!

After reading this piece and hymn, I began pondering my own blessings: personal, familial and the blessings I have in common with all citizens of the United States of America. I realized quickly my personal and family blessings were too numerous to enumerate "one by one" today. But I also realized that I had been taking many of my blessings for granted, as Aldous Huxley once wrote: "Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted." Huxley's words reminded me that most take for granted those freedoms God restored via America's inspired founding fathers.

Monson's talk was a wakeup call for me to acknowledge God's "Divine Gift of Gratitude" more fully; for the blessings I have and not take them for granted. And while this is neither the time nor place to name my personal blessings "one by one" it is a time, because Ameri-cans are living in troubled times, to name those basic blessings Americans share in common.

The blessings we Americans share in common, and should be grateful for, would include I believe:

1. The Pilgrims, who set sail for America with a desire to escape the tyranny they then lived under that prohibited them from worshiping God according to their own conscience; and who, after a difficult time surviving the first year established a pattern for us to follow with a feast of Thanksgiving to their God who had led them to America.

2. Those early Tea Party patriots who, unafraid of the potential consequences, stood up to the tyranny of King George III, and the largest and most powerful army in the world, and began a war that led to America becoming a "land of the free and home of the brave."

3. Those 56 brave men, along with their families, Americans revere as their founding fathers, and who, knowing the consequences would be death, signed the foundational document of America's freedom, Jefferson's inspired Declaration of Independence, the document that was God's official declaration to restore freedom to a world then ruled by tyranny.

4. The 11 years of turmoil that followed the signing of the Declaration.

5. The 39 men, who, knowing things were not going well for the new nation (much like today), gathered in 1787 and crafted another document that established the initial Constitution, a set of written laws designed to protect the freedoms Jefferson had acknowledged as "unalienable," that is God provided, in his declaration, a document that would imply: "it is not right any man should be in bondage one to another." America's many struggles for freedom have verified this.

6. The three men who refused to sign the newly crafted Constitution in 1787 believing the freedoms they had fought a war for should be included in the Constitution. These men were responsible for America's precious Bill of Rights and all Americans should be grateful for them. What would America be today without its Bill of Rights? America's Bill of Rights allowed Americans to use freely God's gift of agency, second only to God's gift of life itself, to become a major force in mankind's life. We take this gift of agency for granted, not realizing that in 1787, few in the world were free to think for themselves. Every nation had a national religion that was supported by national taxes.

As you count your blessings this week, remember to thank God for the First Amendment that allows you to choose your personal beliefs, to speak freely, to publish freely, to assemble and to petition your government for redress freely. And what would America be today without its Second Amendment - an enslaved nation?

Remember this week that these blessings of freedom were restored here in America by men inspired of God for this very purpose. May we always be grateful to God for America.

Donald Conkey, a retired agricultural economist, lives in Woodstock.
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