Published in the November 27, 2015 edition

It’s the time of year when Americans gather around the table of Thanksgiving and break bread with family and friends from near and far to celebrate our good fortunes and to renew our strength in enduring our losses.

Many of us have logged enough miles around the sun to gain the wisdom that life will always be filled with a goodly sum of both good fortune and loss. For those too young or too naive to have learned such a basic tenet of life, it falls to the more seasoned among us to instill in them our country’s cherished values – like resiliency, hope and respect for all people – through our words and with our deeds.

This past year has once again been filled with poignant examples of how life can change in an instant, too often in cruel ways that test our faith and resolve. Much like “Boston Strong” instantly unites and defines us in a way that would have been unfathomable to Bostonians prior to 2013, the Paris terrorist attacks – first at Charlie Hebdo in January and then throughout that city two weeks ago – have awakened the world from its slumber of complacency in the terror game played out by the likes of ISIS and others.

Our country’s collective consciousness is filled with life-altering events that ultimately serve to reinvigorate the resolve of Americans in overcoming the adversities of their day. In 2015, the very nature of our interconnected world means that terror attacks in places like Paris have the same effect as if they had happened around the corner from our homes.

An important touchstone of our collective consciousness is the modern Thanksgiving holiday, with its roots in a shared three-day feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags of Massachusetts who came together to celebrate the fruits of a bountiful harvest nearly 400 years ago.

The promise inherent in Thanksgiving is its ability to bring together the diverse tapestry of America around a shared table that takes many forms.

A morning visit to the high school gridiron, where traditional rivalries are codified and local lore reigns supreme, typically precedes the afternoon feast back home for many. Others choose to volunteer their services to assist those forgotten souls at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, nursing homes or hospitals. And there are certainly many Turkey Trot road races in which to partake as an insurance policy against overindulgence while supporting a local cause.

Naturally, merchants are eager to entice you from your turkey-and-pie coma to partake in that other national pastime — shopping — on the holiday itself, before the last turkey drumstick has been cleared from the dining room table.

While it’s difficult to resist such enticements, the tendency to merge all of the end-of the-year holidays into one big blur has its price on our society. Moments in history like the Paris and Boston Marathon bombings solidify a basic human need to step back from the trappings of this 24/7/365 world that we’ve created. Time is a precious, finite resource and we need holidays like Thanksgiving to re-engage face-to-face with our neighbors and strangers, family and friends.

An outstretched hand, the desire to buffer the burdens of those in need or to mentor wayward souls before their lives spiral out of control and take innocent victims down with them, must continue to be nurtured in each generation as a worthwhile endeavor.

Having a national holiday like Thanksgiving that allows us the freedom to disengage from our hectic schedules, to give thanks and to be present in the joy of the moment, is priceless.

So pause and say a prayer for the safe return of our soldiers and sailors stationed around the world who remain separated from their loved ones on Thanksgiving protecting our cherished freedoms from new terrorist plots.

Take the time to enjoy the company of loved ones, play with the kids and listen patiently to the stories retold by our grandparents or elderly aunts and uncles. It will pay dividends that can’t be measured on a balance sheet.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the wonderful goodies associated with our 24/7 world will herald in the Christmas shopping season soon enough. The crowds can wait. The devices can be powered down. On this night, throw another log on the fire, relax and soak it all in. An extra slice of pumpkin pie awaits.