“What do you say, Cal?”
The little guy gazed up at his Papa, a popsicle in his hand, and grinned with a little blue and green around the mouth.
“Thanks, Papa.” Popsicle in place, he turned back to his cousins, his attention on a game, the words of gratitude said in obedience and quickly forgotten.
Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday often overlooked in preparation for the big celebration of Christmas, often ignored because its origins might not have been portrayed in politically correct ways.
How people see it doesn’t diminish our need for it.
When my children were young, it was appropriate that we taught them to say thank you for things they received. It’s kindness offered; it shows respect and gratitude.
It did, however, become rote. Constant parental reminders made it easy to be that way. “What do you say to your…” fill in the blank. They were released from emotional honesty with tedious obedience. I doubt that there was ever too much thankfulness involved.
Too often that’s how it is in life. We say words of gratitude with no meaning, just wanting to move on to what we really desire.
I know how easy it is to thank someone thoughtlessly, especially if I’m not fond of what I’ve been given. I had an older relative gift me with a shirt that was a color I detested, and it didn’t fit well. I wrote the obligatory thank-you note, expressing my gratitude, and then put the shirt in the back of my closet, never to be worn.
Years later, when I was going through my closet, getting rid of things I no longer wore, I came across this shirt, with the tags still on it. My initial response was to give it to Goodwill.
I had one of those rare clarifying moments. The shirt was the favorite color of this relative, a shade I’d seen her in often. She was on a fixed income; it was an extravagance for her to have purchased me anything.
She was being generous; I was being stingy with my gratitude.
I had the wrong perspective.
I kept the shirt, though I will say I only wore it once; it really didn’t look good on me. But having it hang in my closet reminded me that being thankful is a matter of choice, not preference.
When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, he did so from a place of persecution and harassment. He knew what it was like living with unwanted circumstances. He wrote to his friends, “Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Being thankful in and for all things is a reminder that God is still God, loving us who are His, helping us grow in kindness and gratitude. Encouraging us to look past what we see on the surface to the value beneath what is obvious.
Thanksgiving isn’t just a big meal and football games. It prompts us to recognize the many things we can be truly grateful for–the people in our lives, the chance to enter each new day with the opportunity to do the next right thing for the sake of others and ourselves, the prospect of impacting others positively with who we are.
Gratitude can change our attitude.