I grew up during the era when sending thank-you letters for gifts received was a mandatory act.
Even if I didn’t like what I got.
I remember receiving clothes that I thought were hideous. Things I’d never wear. Clothes, I was convinced, that were being re-gifted or had come off some end-of-season clearance rack. Purchased to fulfill a task, not because it was something special.
My snarky roots go way back.
Then having the discussion of why it was necessary to thank someone for something I didn’t ask for or didn’t want.
The standard parental answer was, “They thought enough of you to get it. You need to be thankful for their efforts and kindness.”
I remember at one point asking if it would be thinking kindly of them if I sent it back with a “no, thank you” note.
Our very American Thanksgiving holiday is supposed to be a time set aside to think of all that we have to be grateful for. Not football games or eating binges, but life as we’ve experienced it.
Tough to do when life has been a bit bitter or painful. When the automatic response to what’s happening to me is grief and sadness, not joy and gratitude.
Any time I use the words “thankful” or “thank you”, it really isn’t about me at all. It’s expressing gratitude TO somebody. For something done for me. It’s being thought of, known, seen–never mind the reason why. An acknowledgement that I’m valued by someone.
In the current age of entitlement, it’s easy to lose sight of simple gratitude when we don’t get what we want or expect to receive. It’s the little kid on Christmas morning, rushing through his gifts, and not finding what he expected, throws a fit because his whole Christmas is ruined.
It’s me wanting what I want when I want it. A greater focus on the gift rather than the giver. With no thought to the story or circumstances of the one who is giving me a gift.
I’m not always a gracious receiver.
To pause for a day of true Thanksgiving isn’t choosing between mashed potatoes and sweet. Whether we watch football all day or go out and play football.
It’s intentional gratitude for what we do have. Not that we have it all. Not that we’re in the best possible place in life. But at this time, this moment, life has been given to us.
We choose how we’ll live it.
“Be thankful IN ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
For followers of Jesus, we can be thankful in all situations because God is in life with us. It doesn’t mean I glory in pain and loss–mine or another’s. I’m walking through it with the One who fully understands what pain and loss are.
Life is neither easy nor fair. With Jesus, it’s purposeful. With an assured destination.
That’s worth at least a thank You.