It is not hard to write about the things for which we are grateful. The problem comes in being specific. It would be much easier to list all of my blessings. Being grateful in a country that has been so blessed by God for so many years can actually be placed into a category of expectation. Most of us grew up expecting to be warm in our beds with food in our stomachs. We expected to have gifts on birthdays and Christmases. We expect our government to act on our behalf with rational forethought. Expectations begin when we are young and increase, as we age. As Americans we have so much. The amount of stuff we acquire over our lifetime borders on ridiculous. No, I am not a minimalist nor do I wish to point out the “haves” and the “have nots” in our country. We are blessed to have this country, and our worst cases scenarios are better than most countries’ best. Wait! I am not bringing my nose to a vertical position and donning an elitist attitude. I am only saying that I am truly thankful to God for being born in America.
In the brutal winter of 1777, America was born. Other dates are drilled into our heads as children, from the landing at Plymouth Rock to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to when America began. But during that harsh winter of 1777, the Continental Army was in shambles. A 46 year-old George Washington had doubters on every side of him. Arguing and incompetence had caused valuable supplies to sit in harbors to ruin. The general’s men were dying of starvation and sickness and hypothermia. The British could attack at anytime and decimate what was left of Washington’s force. With admiration of the men that held strong during the breaking point of desertion and death, General Washington wrote, “Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery.” It is this thread of fidelity that ran through the people who were backed into a corner that made the difference. The deaths of between 2,000 to 3,000 men at Valley Forge pounded on the heart of the general, and even Martha Washington visited and stayed in camp, tending the sick and consoling the dying. It was during this crucial time that Reverend Nathaniel Randolph Snowden saw and later recorded in his book “Diary and Remembrances”:
“I knew personally the celebrated Quaker Potts who saw Gen’l Washington alone in the woods at prayer. I got it from himself, myself. Weems mentioned it in his history of Washington, but I got it from the man myself, as follows:
“I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) in Montgomery County, Penn’a near to the Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of ye Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our State and a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, ‘It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America c’d proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean, but something very extraordinary converted me to the Good Faith!” “What was that,” I inquired? ‘Do you see that woods, and that plain. It was about a quarter of a mile off from the place we were riding, as it happened.’ ‘There,’ said he, ‘laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, and the cause of the country, of humanity and of the world.
‘Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.
‘I went home and told my wife. I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen and heard and observed. We never thought a man c’d be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. She also was astonished. We thought it was the cause of God, and America could prevail.’ “He then to me put out his right hand and said ‘I turned right about and became a Whig.'”
I am so thankful that America did prevail. I am thankful that I grew up in a country based on freedom. It is within that freedom that separates us from other countries, in the fact that our primary founding document is addressed to the rights of the people and displays the limitations of the government. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve my country in the United States Army. God has blessed us and is blessing us. We should be eternally grateful for His patience and guidance in the days to come.