Thankfulness is not just once a year

Guest blogger Rabbi Irwin Wiener of Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation offers some thoughts in advance of Veterans Day, which is next Wednesday, Nov. 11, and Thanksgiving, which this year is on Thursday, Nov. 26.

Each year, at this time, we pause for two major events in our lives as Americans: Thanksgiving and Veterans Day. These two holidays, each in their own way, offer the same expressions of gratefulness and appreciation. And, each year, I draw special attention to them because, all too often, we neglect to remember how these holidays affect our lives.

When we lose someone who has devoted his or her energy to the safety and survival of our American way of life, or see the list of wounded increase with each passing day, we pause to thank them for their participation in ensuring our safety and survival.

Those who wear the uniform of this great country represent our freedom. More than that they remind us of the vigilance needed to remain a nation of tolerance and an example to the world. It is no different for those who have, but no longer, carry the banner, those who have served and now continue to remain proud of that commitment.

Our history as a nation is replete with stories of valor and fortitude. Blood has been shed, not only here, but also on foreign soil, with the understanding that liberty and freedom require sacrifice. Sacrifice, at times, requires the ultimate sacrifice. There are no barriers or boundaries when searching for the opportunity to breathe free.

On Nov. 11, we will once again devote our attention to the members of our armed forces, both past and present. How I wish that we could and would remember them every day of the year. Our diversity is a testament to the contributions made every day and every night.

Right here, in the Valley, we see this effort in action. Our veterans are living examples of goodness and allegiance. Their untiring efforts in behalf of all veterans, regardless of race, color, creed or religion, sets a standard that illustrates their commitment to the ideals for which they served.

It is fitting that this time has been set aside because, in our pursuit of daily activities, we tend to forget. Patriotism seems to be relegated to memory.

As we honor our veterans, we also commemorate a holiday designed to remind us of the sacrifices made by the generations — Thanksgiving. These two celebrations give us pause to reflect on our good fortune and to express our thanks to a great country. Just look around the world — so many people clamoring to be free and live in societies that are accepting and free from the crippling elements of war.

We certainly are not perfect, but that does detract from the good we do. Nor does it diminish the response we offer when there is a need that requires our resources. This country was founded on the principle of inclusiveness.

Thankfulness is about recognizing the wonders we witness, the magic we bring to the world and the fulfillment we represent to others. To me, the most significant aspect of these commemorations is a simple word — hope.

Thankfulness should not be just once a year. Thankfulness requires understanding. Thankfulness should be part of us all the days of our lives. Then, we will truly pay homage to all who represent the goodness known as America.