By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.
But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.
Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.
As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) - A few years ago, I came across a high school textbook on U.S. history that stumbled badly when it tried to describe the first Thanksgiving. Because of a serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment, the authors thought they couldn’t even refer to God in their textbook. So they ended up telling their readers that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians. (Huh?)
Personally, I think Thanksgiving is (and was) about giving thanks to God, but I am too eclectic nowadays to confine my giving of thanks to the capricious Calvinist God of the Pilgrims. So in the spirit of Pascal, who placed a wager on the Christian god, I'm putting a marker down, too. But why confine your wager to one divinity? Here is my own Thanksgiving litany to the gods.
By Ansley Roan, Special to CNN
A mother in Missouri updates her Facebook status with something she’s grateful for each day. A doctor in Boston makes a gratitude list before bed. A priest in New York ends his day with thanks and reflection.
They have never met. Their lives are very different. But all of them are grateful.
Rhianna Mathias posts her gratitude status updates in part because she’s now a mother after a struggle with infertility. Dr. Aditi Nerurkar keeps a gratitude journal because it helps her de-stress. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, ends his days with an exercise called the examination of conscience, which begins with gratitude.
How to raise a grateful child
Their choice to focus on gratitude and their different reasons for doing so suggest new popularity for an ancient sentiment.
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
When we think of the New England Puritans who gave to us Thanksgiving, we tend to run to predictable nouns, including killjoy and prude.
But Thanksgiving is a festival, which is to say it was made for fun. And New England’s Puritans were by no means allergic to fun.
Editor's Note: Kathleen Koch is a Washington-based freelance journalist, author and speaker. Her best-selling new book, “Rising from Katrina,” traces her Mississippi hometown’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and her experiences covering it. For 18 years, she was a CNN correspondent.
By Kathleen Koch, Special to CNN
I just returned from another visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where gratitude is as plentiful this Thanksgiving as the “For Sale” signs that dot the beachfront. It might seem puzzling in a region where the recovery is still very much a work in progress.
“We are busier than ever, particularly since the oil spill,” acknowledged the smiling, silver-haired nurse at a fundraiser this week for Biloxi’s Bethel Free Health Clinic. The clinic sprang to life in 2005 to meet the needs of Mississippi residents who after Hurricane Katrina no longer had the money to pay for health care.
“This job was an answer to a prayer of mine,” said 70-year-old Bethel director Judy Jones. The retired nurse had been helping hand out cleanup supplies, but prayed for a paying job that better fit her skills and would help pay for repairs on her hurricane-damaged home.
For two and a half years, Jones ran the clinic out of a Lutheran church with volunteer doctors and nurses from out of state. But then the post-hurricane state of emergency was declared over. Jones introduced me to the tall, bespectacled doctor who came out of retirement to fill the gap.
This year's Thanksgiving Day proclamation from the White House has a distinctly religious ring to it, referring to the "gifts of a gracious God" to the nation.
"A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country," President Barack Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation begins."...We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings."
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.