Thanksgiving is as bred into our cultural bones as the Fourth of July, Christmas and Easter and Memorial Day, perhaps even more than any of those days. For Thanksgiving is the one time that we halt our normal weekly routine, gather with family, or our broader family of friends and community, and appreciate that which is elemental to our survival — the harvest.

Across all cultures, there is the tradition, the instinct, to celebrate that which sustains us. For everyone, that is the fruit of what we grow, the crops raised, milled, canned, dried, and eventually, prepared to eat. But that is not all. We celebrate the better aspects of our social fabric, the institutions that educate, protect and serve us, the religions or spiritual practices that nurture souls, and the warmth of hearth and home.

This Thanksgiving in the annual Presidential Proclamation, President Obama recounts the autumn harvest celebration when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony. “The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims, and today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” he wrote. “We take this time to remember the ways that the First Americans have enriched our Nation’s heritage, from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. As we come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us.”

“Though our traditions have evolved, the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story. When President George Washington proclaimed our country’s first Thanksgiving, he praised a generous and knowing God for shepherding our young Republic through its uncertain beginnings. Decades later, President Abraham Lincoln looked to the divine to protect those who had known the worst of civil war, and to restore the Nation ‘to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.'”

Closer to home, we asked ourselves, what compels us to pause and give thanks. Here are some thoughts from among our staff members:

“I’m thankful for our churches, food pantries and charities that work so hard year-round to help the less fortunate both at home and abroad.”

“I am thankful that I live in a community that supports the arts and all the artists from boat builders to musicians and all the creative personalities that coexist!”

“I’m thankful for a place where I fit in. Yesterday, at the Fun-raiser for Nancy Glassman, I saw a room full of compassion and caring. But more than that, I saw people who put their compassion into material expression, offering the work of their hands and minds, and the cash in their pockets, to help a neighbor in need.”

“None of us has time to do everything we’d like to do, for ourselves or for others. It’s wonderful (in the true sense of instilling wonder) to know that others are all around us, willing to cook a meal, design a poster, donate a work of art or an hour of labor, or stand on a street corner to proclaim an opinion about an issue of importance. None of us has all the answers to life’s difficult challenges, but together, we just might be able to meet them.”

“Today, on Facebook, I saw a posting from a woman who has prepared more food than she and her friends can eat on Thursday. She put out an open call to those who’d like to share the Thanksgiving meal. I’m thankful to live in a world where that can happen.”

Thanksgiving is a time when we acknowledge what is good and kind in our lives, and what we need to do better for the grace of our larger communities. Happy Thanksgiving.