Sandwiched between all the hoopla of Halloween and the Christmas hubbub is the holiday we call Thanksgiving.  In years gone by, this day seemed to have a lot more meaning than it does currently.  Halloween was less of a production, and Christmas lights didn’t show up until December.  Stores were closed on Thanksgiving instead of vying with other vendors for pre-Black Friday sales.  We appear to have forgotten the purpose of a time that was supposed to be set aside to thank God for His abundant blessings.

Thankfulness.  Gratitude.  Appreciation.  Today’s “me”-oriented society often forgets to embrace these qualities.  We seem to live as if life is all about ourselves.  Travel down the highway.  It becomes quite evident that way too many drivers are only focused on getting where they are going.  No one else matters.  Common courtesy has often fallen by the wayside, lying in the ditch with other litter that careless folk strew along the roadside.

Instead of bemoaning the lack of respect so commonly seen these days, maybe we should set an example by expressing our gratitude to those around us.  Take the time to say, “Thank you!” to those who serve us, people we often take for granted.  Store clerks.  The wait staff in a restaurant.  Grocery baggers (some stores still have them).  Teachers.  People in public service jobs.  Those who serve in the military.  I could go on with this list, but I would never be able to think of all those who we usually overlook because they are behind the scenes. People we see, yet never really view as the person that they are.  I wonder how much things would change if we took the time to communicate our appreciation to the “unseen” people in our lives.

On a much grander scale, there is Someone who is probably the most ignored.  Someone who gives us what we need every day of our lives.  We don’t think about God as we take each breath, although He provides the air we inhale.  There are those who insist that the Lord is the result of human imagination.  The intricacy of His creation stands as a testimony of His existence.  The heavens declare His glory. 

The thought that the Creator of all knows me completely and cherishes me as His child is enough to fill me with gratitude.  I have learned to thank Him in the little things as well as in the big ones.  A few years ago, I was involved in a study where participants were encouraged to write down five things for which we were thankful.  This was to be done each night before going to bed.  I have been faithful in doing so ever since.  It is amazing how one’s perspective can change when they take the time to count their blessings prior to falling asleep!

This year, let’s make an effort to truly be grateful for what we have.  As we sit around tables that are over-loaded with abundance, let’s take the time to remember Who provided that abundance and offer God our thanks.

Need some fresh ideas for Thanksgiving sides?  Here are some variations on typical side dishes that you may want to try.

Zesty Corn Dressing Balls

4 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup butter

1 (14.75-ounce) can cream-style corn

1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, water

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Place stuffing mix in large bowl; set aside.

Sauté onion and celery in 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet until tender.  Add next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil.  Pour over stuffing mix; mix well.  Stir in eggs.  Let cool 10 minutes.

Shape stuffing mixture into 9 balls; place in lightly greased 9-inch square pan.  Pour melted butter evenly over dressing.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Yield: 9 servings.

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

3 (15-ounce) cans green beans, drained and rinsed

4 slices bacon

1 small onion, chopped

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving drippings.  Crumble bacon and set aside.

Sauté onion in bacon drippings until tender.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in bacon, beans, and vinegar.  Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Simmer 25 minutes.  Yield: 6 servings.

Sweet Potato-Orange Bake

3 pounds sweet potatoes

2 medium oranges, peeled and sliced (see note)

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water 20-25 minutes or until tender.  Let cool to touch; peel and cut into 1/2-inch slices.  Layer potatoes and oranges in a greased 8-by-12-inch baking dish.

Melt butter in a small saucepan; add next 3 ingredients.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour glaze over sweet potatoes; sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Note:  I find it easiest to slice the oranges before peeling them.  Lay each slice flat on a cutting board; using the sharp point of a knife, separate the fruit from the rind.  This method keeps the oranges from squishing as you slice them.

Cranberry-Whipped Cream Salad

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 can mandarin oranges, drained (reserve juice)

1 (3-ounce) package raspberry-flavored gelatin

1 (14-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Drain pineapple, reserving juice; set pineapple aside.  Add enough juice from the oranges to pineapple juice to measure 1 cup; place in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in gelatin until it dissolves.  Stir in cranberry sauce and orange rind until well blended.  Chill until consistency of an unbeaten egg white.

Fold in pineapple, oranges, and whipped cream.  Spoon into a 12-by-8-by 2-inch dish; chill until firm.  Yield: 10-12 servings.