On this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for Thanksgiving itself, a welcome stop sign in a national calendar that compels us, on most days of the year, to move relentlessly and ruthlessly forward.

Although a people of many strengths, we Americans aren’t naturally conditioned for gratitude, an art best practiced by looking backward, not ahead. We see blessings best in the rearview mirror — noticing, in this deepening autumn of a closing year, just how lucky we’ve been, how endowed we are with riches large and small.

But it’s not in our national character to dwell on the past. The news, the marketplace, the ambitions of a world power nudge us inevitably toward the far horizon, the dreams in the distance. That’s what is best about America — that in the centuries since our founding, we remain as restless as pioneers.

But there is merit, too, in occasionally pausing on this perpetual path toward the Next Big Thing. Thanksgiving is a day to rest motionless, if only for a moment or two, and look at the year behind us. It was a year, like all American years, that was full grace and good fortune — providence propelling us, like a warm and steady wind, with such constancy that our luck was easy to take for granted.

For those of us who live in south Louisiana, the end of November has a special meaning. With the arrival of Thanksgiving, we also know that a curtain is falling on another hurricane season — a season that left Louisiana unscathed this year.

Last summer’s observance of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reminded us that a calm hurricane season isn’t inevitable. Katrina, Rita and Gustav marked us with the knowledge of what nature can do in this part of the world. We were so lucky this year not to be worried by weather extremes.

Of course, we know that others worried on our behalf, even as on days when the sun was bright, the air calm. We give thanks today for the emergency preparedness officials here and across the nation who kept vigil over land and sea and sky — those who are still watching, waiting, and worrying about those things that can harm us.

We know, with deepened urgency this Thanksgiving, that weather isn’t the only or even the biggest threat to public safety here and across the world. The terrorist attacks in Paris this month demonstrated the darkness that can touch the human heart. But that darkness, we know, will not and cannot define the destiny of free people.

Today, as we bow our heads over dinner tables across Louisiana and around the nation, we give thanks most of all for liberty and those who defend it. It is our greatest gift, in this year and all others.