The Story Behind Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving


Dear Reader:

My generation of the ‘Baby Boomers’ grew up with this image in our minds when we thought of an American Thanksgiving. Like other traditional images…this painting, too, makes us feel nostalgic, but truthfully was never experienced.

Our Thanksgivings were big with aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins…however, we were always spread out all over…just not at one table. And that was the case again last night…(Creativity helps at my house… finding a table and chair or cushion to sit/eat on.) Even though we can spread out on both sides…everyone likes to be together and feel like they are missing out if they are on one side and others next door. More fun to just bunch in…

Between February and March 1943  four consecutive essays were written about the Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom from Want (Thanksgiving painting) -each essay was accompanied by a Norman Rockwell painting.

We all know Rockwell’s Freedom from Want by heart, even if we don’t know its title. Three generations circle the food—a nuclear family more rarely seen today, but still existing in some hearts and minds as an ideal. From the lower right corner, in the finest Renaissance tradition of painting, a young man looks out at you directly—the classic challenge to the viewer posed by the painter and his painting. His smile asks you to join in with the wonder at the bounty set before them, but is that all it asks?

After more than a decade of overseas wars draining of us blood and treasure and an economic downturn further depleting our reserves of good will and thankfulness, that young man’s smile reminds us that the Thanksgiving thanks are not necessarily for abundant protein and four kinds of vegetables. Instead, the thankfulness is for having each other and the enduring capacity of people to free one another from all kinds of want—physical, emotional, and even spiritual.

So until tomorrow…Let us remember that freedom means many things to many people…but we all know when we no longer have it…and that it is worth fighting for. Happy Thanksgiving!

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Flowers still blooming at Thanksgiving




Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours! Rhodes was like a magnet…we were all drawn to him and he patiently let his picture be made with all of us.











Ben with both his grandchildren…it’s been a long time coming…but oh so worth the wait!



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to The Story Behind Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

  1. Jo Dufford says:

    Among my many blessings for which and whom I am thankful, I am thankful for you and your way of inspiring me every day. Living in America, being free to worship my God when and how I please, having family and friends to support and love me and never having known a time when I didn’t have all I needed and much, much more are just a few things I am thankful for today. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND TO ALL!


  2. Rachel Edwards says:

    What a fun time…Love the pictures . ..Happy Thanksgiving dear fruend…Love you .

    On Nov 24, 2016 6:01 AM, “Chapel of Hope Stories” wrote:

    > Becky Dingle posted: ” Dear Reader: My generation of the ‘Baby Boomers’ > grew up with this image in our minds when we thought of an American > Thanksgiving. Like other traditional images…this painting, too, makes us > feel nostalgic, but truthfully was never experienced. ” >


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