Smoking Marshmallows

Dennis Linthicum

Smoking Marshmallows

When you think about Thanksgiving, what is the first thing that enters your mind?

For most people, it is probably some sort of food – moist turkey breast, buttery mashed potatoes, brown sugar-glazed sweet potatoes (you know… with smoking marshmallows on top,) or pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

Or, you might have thoughts about family or friends that you haven’t seen for a long time, how to decorate the house, or how to get where you’re going without getting stuck in traffic.

Once Thanksgiving Day is here and family and friends begin to arrive, then, there will be conversations, topics of discussion, stories to share and catching up to do.

Grandma's Pie

However, I’ll guess that too few of us have our immediate thoughts turn toward being thankful.

Being thankful should be an all-consuming attitude, but it rarely is. Our lives are too busy for that. And, there is so much work to be done. We get tangled in the tyranny of the urgent while ignoring the simple things that fill our days and give purpose to our lives.

A thankful attitude begins with our own humble recognition of where we came from and what our short-comings might be. During moments of reflection, thankfulness shows up as the genuine respect and heartfelt gratitude for those who have impacted our lives.

While we are thankful for the material things we possess we should be most thankful for the people and the intertwining relationships that they bring into our lives.  Although we might say, “I’m thankful for my car,” what we mean is, “I’m thankful to those who purchased, repaired, provided for, or loaned me the car that I drive.” This is true even if you bought and paid for your own car, because you are employed by someone (even yourself), you provide for your customers who purchase the goods or services that you supply. They, in turn, reward your life with the results from their endeavors.

In Johannes Althusius’ famous treatise of 1614, Politica, Althusius describes his understanding of the community as a harmonious ordering of natural associations. Certainly, the family comes first in this community, but there is a host of dependent associations that can’t be overlooked. He identifies God as the first cause of all our relationships and the family as the most natural and important of all human associations. Any other associations or unions grow from these first relationships. He writes,

“Truly, in living this life no man is self-sufficient, or adequately endowed by nature. For when he is born, destitute of all help, naked and defenseless, as if having lost all his goods in a shipwreck, he is cast forth into the hardships of this life, not able by his own efforts to reach a maternal breast, nor to endure the harshness of his condition, nor to move himself from the place where he was cast forth. By his weeping and tears, he can initiate nothing except the most miserable life, a very certain sign of pressing and immediate misfortune.”

Althusius continues,

Bereft of all counsel and aid, for which nevertheless he is then in greatest need, he is unable to help himself without the intervention and assistance of another. Even if he is well nourished in body, he cannot show forth the light of reason. Nor in his adulthood is he able to obtain in and by himself those outward goods he needs for a comfortable and holy life, or to provide by his own energies all the requirements of life. The energies and industry of many men are expended to procure and supply these things.”

It is no accident that this continent’s first settlers joined together with their immediate community to offer thoughts of thanksgiving to their God, their families, their friends, co-workers, and associates. These celebrations of old are simply the natural outgrowth of a moment of common reflection. Any reasonable assessment of our own skills, abilities, and habits would lead each of us to a thankful understanding for those who daily intervene in our lives.

This is a small variation of the circle of life, where each person voluntarily contributes to the health and well-being of the community through open and free access to the marketplace.

Adam Smith described this in his book, the Wealth of Nations, (1776). Smith mentions the useful efforts of workmen and women in the marketplace. He then jolts us with the realization that the market place does not need altruistic motives to meet the needs of the community. Smith’s narrative explains that it is not from sheer benevolence that the butcher, brewer or baker provides us with our steak, beer and bread. But, rather, they provide these services from regard for their own family’s interests. Their goods and services are needed and enjoyed by the community and in return, these entrepreneurs receive monies to supply their own family’s needs.

In one of President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamations for Thanksgiving, he states,

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

I hope this year, you too, get the opportunity to reflect and share in a bountiful Thanksgiving celebration.

Remember, if we don't stand for rural Oregon values, common-sense and our great American Traditions – No one will!

Senator Dennis Linthicum signature

Dennis Linthicum
Oregon State Senate 28

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1728
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-305, Salem, Oregon 97301