Upon the national day of giving thanks our reflections could take many paths. We could recall the story of the Pilgrims, their New World friends and their momentous coming together. We could recount the many blessings bestowed upon us in the present. We could consider our fortune in the march of history that locates us in an era of miraculous medicines and expanding technology. We could be thankful for our nation, our freedoms and the transcendent security wrought from our faith.

Upon the national day of giving thanks our reflections could take many paths. We could recall the story of the Pilgrims, their New World friends and their momentous coming together. We could recount the many blessings bestowed upon us in the present. We could consider our fortune in the march of history that locates us in an era of miraculous medicines and expanding technology. We could be thankful for our nation, our freedoms and the transcendent security wrought from our faith.

Any one of these scenarios would be appropriate. Interestingly, all of these thanks evolve around a simple point: they require a deliberate moment of purposeful thinking. This is entirely appropriate from an etymological point of view as the word “thanks” shares its origins in Latin with a common root for the word “think.” In essence, to thank starts with a thought.

To deconstruct the term, “think” a little, linguists tell us it may be taken to mean “conceive in the mind, consider or intend.” It may also mean that we have “caused (something) to appear before us.” In either meaning, to think is to make something manifest within our consciousness.

In 1928, noted sociologist W.I. Thomas along with his wife Dorothy Swain Thomas articulated what would become known as the Thomas Theorem, which is: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

In short, what we take to be real, effectively becomes real for us. They further argue that our entire worldview is shaped as an amalgam of definitions which, “gradually (influences) a whole life-policy and the personality of the individual himself.”

In the context of being thankful, these definitions have a transformative effect on our relationships with the objects or benefactors toward which the thanks is extended. A person practiced in the recognition of life’s gifts — be they great or small — is a person whose manifest reality is intrinsically different from one who is not so inclined.

This observation should not be taken as a clarion to rose colored glasses. Rather, it is a call to command the power of thanks. In this context, thanks are the instrument of bringing the otherwise nonexistent into reality.

Many in the Christian faith may recall Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

This passage reveals yet another nexus. Thanks begets faith. Paradoxically, greater faith seems to also beget broader thanks.

In 1955, the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) published a landmark work, Speak Truth to Power. While the title phrase was later picked up by Robert F. Kennedy and has entered the popular lexicon, the contents of the original Quaker position bear repeating.

In part they state, “We speak to power in three senses: To those who hold high places in our national life and bear the terrible responsibility of making decisions for war or peace; To the American people who are the final reservoir of power in this country and whose values and expectations set the limits for those who exercise authority; To the idea of Power itself, and its impact on Twentieth Century life… Our truth is an ancient one: that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden.”

How then should we think? For what do we give thanks?

Firm in the knowledge that power rests on statements of truth; truth derives from faith; and faith from thanks, it appears we have our charge: be thankful. In thanks, our giving is the one certain path to getting — not that for which we are retrospectively grateful, but for that which is possible and yet unseen.