I am fascinated by etymologies, the origins of words. As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m thinking about the origin of our English word “thank.” It comes from the P.I.E. (Primitive Indo-European) root tong, to think. Thank is related phonetically to think, as sang is to sing. To say, “Thank you,” in effect, means, “I will think about this good thing that you have done and I will remember it.”
Many good things have happened to me in the last 12 months and I will remember them fondly. But, although we need to be thankful for the good things that have happened in our personal lives, our faiths always call us to look beyond ourselves. And, as we approach this Thanksgiving Day, I think more about the tragedies that have befallen us this past year.
There is global warming; the last 12 months have been the hottest ever registered on our planet. Then there is the fentanyl crisis, which is even taking the lives of babies. There is the homelessness crisis in our community. I see the tents as I drive along the freeways and I speak with the homeless people who come to the church asking for help.
And above all, above all, there are the wars: the war in the Ukraine and the war in Gaza. So many lives have been lost, so many innocent lives, on all sides. How can we be grateful as we think about these things?
There is another phrase that we used in the past to express gratefulness: “much obliged.” It is how one still says “Thank you” in Portuguese: Obrigado, much obliged. Being truly thankful needs to mean obligating ourselves to do good things for others, to commit ourselves to do what we can to make things better for others. And, to thank is to think about how we can do this.
It seems to me that we need to do this together. So, I invite all of you to join the Interfaith Community of South County to come together and give thanks, to reflect on how we can obligate ourselves to make our community, our society, our world better, at our annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, Sunday, Nov. 19 at 3pm at St. Stephen Episcopal Church, 651 Broadway in Gilroy.
Finally, another word comes to mind. In Tagalog the word for thanks is salamat. It comes from the Arabic salaam which means peace, like the Hebrew shalom. Let us also come together to think about how we can obligate ourselves to bring about peace in our homes, in our community, in our world.
Thank you. Much obliged. Peace.
Father Jose Rubio is the Retired in Residence pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Gilroy. He is one of the original members of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Father Jose can be reached at [email protected].