Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” Psalm 100:4
At this time of year when I was in grade school, a common classroom exercise was a contest of finding the most words that could be created from the letters in “Thanksgiving.” For example, our list might include skin, hat, hay, dig, van, shaving, yank, king and saint. It was a good way to get into a spirit of gratitude as we prepared for the holiday.
As an adult, I have not tried my hand again at this exercise, but I have come to realize that adopting an “attitude of gratitude” can be prompted by considering the simplest of things in life. It’s really about just being mindful of the blessings we enjoy.
Consider then the following reflective exercises.
Take a breath, and be thankful. Feel the wind on your face, and be thankful. Take an inventory of your belongings, and be thankful. Take stock of your talents, and be thankful. Hold hands with someone you love, and be thankful. Feel the warmth of the sun on your back, and be thankful. Look into the eyes of a child, and be thankful. Smell a flower, and be thankful. Enjoy a sunset, and be thankful.
And as we consider our blessings, it’s good to remember that some of them are not enjoyed by everyone. So, if you can read this, be thankful. Some 775,000 million adults in the world are illiterate. If you have eaten today, be thankful. Throughout the world, 25,000 people die each day from starvation, which means that almost 40 have died since you began reading this. If you have gone to church this week or have voted this year, be thankful. Millions of people live under severe religious repression and in communist or totalitarian regimes.
Thanksgiving is both action and attitude. John F. Kennedy said it well: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” We live lives of thanksgiving by being forgiving, loving, caring and generous. Through prayer, we express thanks to our Creator for the blessings of life, health, family, friends, community and nation.
Thanksgiving is also about attitude. “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns,” muses Alphonse Karr, “or rejoice because thorns have roses.” In other words, we choose our attitude. This means that we make a deliberate choice to be thankful by acknowledging that our life comes from the One who made us, by committing our time, talents, and resources to something greater than ourselves, and by remembering that it is ours, and ours alone, to decide how we will react to what comes our way.
Going back then to the grade school exercise of identifying words in “Thanksgiving,” the two most important are “giving thanks.” And with good humor, let us remember the wit who suggested, “There’s always something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Even if it’s just not being a turkey.”