Thanksgiving: The Great Unifier

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

Thanksgiving arrives at a perfect time each year, just as the myriad of world religions gear up for their respective winter celebrations. Many consider it the perfect intersection of all great religious traditions; and depending on the topics in which your guests choose to engage, this holiday truly can remain conflict-free!

Thanksgiving contains the best of what it means to be an American—gratitude for abundance, freedom to worship as we choose, pride in our country and good will towards others. In a nutshell, these tenets represent the summation of world religions: faith, respect and a desire for peace.

If there exists any religious agenda on this holiday, consider it as invoking in us the willingness to elevate everyday occurrences (such as “dinner”) into something extraordinary, something holy, if you will.

To that end, many families choose to begin the Thanksgiving meal with some sort of prayer or blessing. This can take the form of a favorite passage from the Bible, or can simply involve circulating the table as each guest states something in his life for which he wishes to express gratitude. With young children in attendance, prepare for this to take the form of “I am thankful for a 4-day weekend off of school!” If that’s what it takes to feel gratitude, embrace it! Starting small is how all good practices take shape and evolve into lifelong habits.

A great many lessons can be learned at family gatherings, and Thanksgiving offers an ideal backdrop for awareness of our abundant blessings and bountiful gifts. This year, due to the pandemic surrounding us, many celebrations have no doubt been pared down to smaller get-togethers. Whether you play the hostess this year or arrive as a guest, take a few moments to jot down some thoughts and pearls of wisdom to bring to the table. Sharing your hearts with those assembled, the many or the few, can serve the same purpose as the food on the table. Let us nourish our souls along with our bodies. Blessings transcend religious differences and serve as the great unifier in an uncertain world.

Sending my heartfelt hopes for a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving ~ from one American to another.