Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our lives and give thanks for what we have.
We Americans are very fortunate to have the “happy accident of our birth.” This phrase was a favorite of Fr. Frank Gilchrist, my parish priest for about 12 years. I met Fr. Gilchrist when I returned to the Catholic Church from which I had been alienated. (I’m alienated again, but that’s another post). He welcomed me with open arms.
Fr. Gilchrist was a Navy chaplain for most of his career–through WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He saw a lot of very difficult things in his life, yet was one of the most humble and selfless people I have ever met. He had very few possessions– he gave everything away. I told him once that I liked an author, and he later gave me two of his books by that author. My little son told him he wanted to be a fighter pilot some day and he gave my son a framed, autographed photo of the Blue Angels. His bedroom in the rectory was sparely furnished and clutter free. Fr. Gilchrist was immensely, humbly grateful for his life and the blessing of being an American. All the time he spent with men and women fighting for America seemed to give him an especially keen sense of this blessing.
Many of us who were born In the USA take for granted the unearned benefit we have of the happy accident of our American birth. It’s not an easy thing to become an American citizen. This Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful and recognize that privilege while opening our hearts to those who haven’t been born into the same happy accident.