As I have done for the past 30 years, I delivered an address on Thanksgiving Day to my family and close friends who gathered at my home to celebrate America's secular holiday. Thanksgiving glorifies our nation as a land of opportunity, of sharing, of plenty. We come together to give thanks for our health and happiness, and for our nation's peace and prosperity.
This year my Thanksgiving address focused on gratitude, a theme most befitting Thanksgiving, which surprisingly I had never directly tackled. Gratitude is the very essence of Thanksgiving: We acknowledge our good fortune, give thanks for our blessings, and show our appreciation for what we have and whom we love. I expressed my heartfelt gratitude to my loving wife, my dear family, my close friends, and my exceptional country.
Gratitude is the warm sense of appreciation you feel towards the giver of a kindness, which evokes your giving thanks and triggers your inclination to return kindness. But gratitude does not impose the obligation to pay it back. We often use the expression "a debt of gratitude." Unlike indebtedness, however, there is no assumption of repayment.
Sometimes we respond to a kindness by "paying it forward," perhaps years later, to people or institutions other than those who provided the original help. Rather than directly paying it back, we do a good deed for someone else, which may be what the original benefactor had desired, namely that kindnesses get passed along, growing exponentially.
Gratitude may seem to stand counter to our capitalist meritocracy which extols self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-interest. As people gain more success and status, some come to believe they have earned their good fortune, without any support or aid from...