Say thank you. What do you say? Can you say thank you? How many times does a child hear these words before saying them becomes automatic, a habit so strong it stays with him for the rest of his life? Perhaps thousands of time, at least hundreds. Most parents will repeat the instruction as many times as it takes until the child responds unprompted. Even then, every slip is followed with the same instructions. I think I may have repeated them a time or two even to teenagers. It’s that important.
As we approach our national day of thanks this year, thoughts of gratitude and why it’s so important keep coming to mind. Why is it essential that we express gratitude, first of all to God, but also to others?
First, it honors the giver. If we have received we have an obligation to acknowledge the giver. Doing so says that I am the recipient, not the cause of my blessings. It expresses warmth in the heart, a desire at least with words to return the favor, to reciprocate. In our relationship with God, it is a way to say with Catherine of Siena that You are God and I am not. In this way, gratitude towards God builds humility. It reminds us that every breath we take is at God’s pleasure. Every word we write, every thought we entertain, is there because of the provision and grace of God. Every electrical impulse of our bodies, whether it moves muscles, transfers thought, or produces sensations occurs because of God’s design and because of His eternal gift of our very existence. I am the recipient and not the creator of every good thing in my life.
Toward others, acknowledging gratitude is considered common courtesy (although not always so common these days). It says “I appreciate what you have done or what you have given and that I am not entitled.” Gratitude is the acknowledgement of my dependence on others for help, for kindness, for the recognition of my dignity as a human being. Gratitude builds relationships. It can be the glue of friendships.
Thankfulness also improves one’s attitude. It can shed the light of grace in the darkness of life’s challenges. If I focus on the blessings in my life my attitude improves. Suffering and adversity get put in their true perspective. The concept is so simply illustrated by the common question Is the glass half full or half empty? Look at the fullness, the goodness and be thankful. It not only improves our attitude for that day, it helps to ward off depression and keeps us in the frame of mind where we are most able to receive the peace and joy of God.As a country, we have an enormous debt of gratitude to God, now and every year since the first Thanksgiving in the Fall of 1621. Over half of the Pilgrims died in that first year after their arrival on Plymouth Rock. Yet they recognized full well the hand of God on their lives. What were the chances that a native American (Squanto!) who could speak English would befriend them, teaching them to grow corn and to use fish to fertilize their fields. And who could not see God’s grace in the formal agreement between the Wampanoag tribe and the colonists to protect each other.
Sarah Josepha Hale felt so strongly about the importance of thankfulness that she worked for 33 years to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. In her words:
Finally in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. Thank you, Sara Josepha Hale, for your decades of efforts to have gratitude to our Heavenly King inscribed in our national calendar, that we might year after year gather together to celebrate with family and friends the blessings bestowed on us individually and as a country. Blessed be God.
“It is the King of Heaven who gives us, year by year, the kindly fruits of the earth, and prepares our bread in due season. The past harvest has been a time of rich blessings over nearly all Christendom; from the greater portions of Europe, throughout the length and breadth of our own beloved land, come the glad tidings of food enough and to spare…Shall we not, then, lay aside our enmities and strifes, and suspend our worldly cares, toils and pursuits on one day in the year, devoting it to a public Thanksgiving for all the good gifts God has bestowed on us and on all the earth?”
Find out more about the first Thanksgiving at www.plimoth.org.
This Thanksgiving, how can we model for our families an attitude of sincere gratitude for all the ways we have been blessed?
Copyright 2018 Rosemary Bogdan