Thank You. These two simple words convey so many positive feelings from the sender to the receiver yet so often go unsaid. We live in an increasingly cynical world which not only neglects being thankful, it actually celebrates the opposite. News, sports, and entertainment channels are littered with shows devoted to criticizing everything from government policy to athlete’s and coaches’ performance to what celebrities wore to different red carpet events. We’ve invented heat indexes, wind chill factors, and barometric pressure readings so that after we hear the forecast from the meteorologist, we can talk about how much worse the weather really is. We could fill a 5 gallon bucket full of conversation about what’s wrong with the world but couldn’t find enough positive statements to fill a Dixie cup with. We align ourselves with narrow interest groups to validate our own beliefs and vilify everyone else in the world who don’t see things the same way we do.
Not only do people complain habitually, they often look suspiciously at those who don’t. In their eyes, if you’re not complaining or criticizing about things, then you really aren’t informed about the world around you. In spite of all this discontent and skepticism, we unashamedly confess: WE ARE THANKFUL.
We are thankful for:
–living in a country where there is freedom to criticize and complain about everything without imminent fear of fatal retribution
–elected officials who face constant, hypocritical, hypercritical criticism to give back to the community
–public school employees who, at far less pay than they deserve, educate our children and provide an opportunity for a brighter tomorrow through a free education
–co-workers who understand the importance of a good laugh every now and then
–the health, ability, and opportunity to do a job we love each day when many others cannot say the same
–the shoulders of giants on which we stand daily
–beautiful sunrises on the morning commute to work
–the steaming pot of coffee that awaits us at work when we arrive
–clear, starlit nights that remind me of how small and insignificant we really are compared with the rest of the universe
–summer’s evenings when the sun stays out late, fireflies light up the sky like mini-torches, and the homeless won’t freeze to death
–the consistent food and shelter that have been available to me every day of our lives
–my minister who offers hope, friends who offer kindness, and enemies who keep us humble
–troops who won’t be spending Thanksgiving at home with their family but are preserving our freedom to spend it with ours
–millions who go to work each day in spite of sick kids, alcoholic/abusive spouses, broken hearts, and shattered dreams
–volunteers who provide assistance reading with children, feed folks on their death bed at a Hospice House, and serve at soup kitchens
–our wives who understand the demands of our jobs, our many quirks, and love us anyway
–healthy children in whose eyes we detect the same mischievous twinkle we still see in our own
–our parents who are still living and have taught us through their example to be selfless, humble, compassionate, and to use the gifts we’ve been leave this world better than we found it
The Thanksgiving holiday was instituted in 1863 by a man who had suffered through: failed business ventures that left him deep in debt, an unsuccessful 4-year courtship that left him alone, the death of a child, deep depression; losses in several elections including Congress and the Vice-Presidency, and was at the time struggling to reunite a nation divided by the Civil War. He decided that as a nation we needed to take a day to focus on all of the things we had to be thankful for. This man was none other than Abraham Lincoln.
There is a story in the Gospel of Luke (17:11-19) about 10 lepers who saw Jesus pass by and cried out in loud voices to be healed of their affliction. Jesus spoke healing on them and told them to show themselves to the priests as proof of their cleansing. Only one of the lepers came back to say thanks. Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” The other nine are not so unlike many in our society today who are vocal when they have a need or are dissatisfied with something, but never utter a word of thanks when their needs are met and are satisfied with outcomes. You see, as evidenced by the grateful leper, thankfulness is a conscious choice.
Thankfulness doesn’t manifest itself from only good things happening on the outside of us; rather, it is an outpouring of gratitude welling up from within us. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t founded by an individual who was living a charmed life. Instead, it was instituted by someone who was grateful for the life he had been given (headaches and failures included). There are scores of faults we have to our credit that could be easily pointed out by even the most casual observer. Yet, in our own small way, we like to think we make my corner of the world a better place because we’re grateful. Perhaps you could make your corner of the world better through the conscious daily exercise of gratitude.