“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
When my son was 3 years old, his preschool laminated a picture of his handprint made up like a turkey with the things for which he was thankful written neatly underneath. Each year since, I hang this drawing in our home as a reminder of how important it is to be thankful for 3-year-old things such as pizza and rain. This year, my now 8-year-old son exclaimed after looking at this masterpiece, “I am thankful for God, double butter popcorn, rain and video games.”
November is often a month dedicated to thankfulness. As the days grow shorter and darker and the weather grows grayer and colder, it is often a time to reflect, to turn inward and to take account of all that one has. Many schools, churches, scouts and social organizations will take special collections before the holidays to show and express this gratitude in tangible ways.
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I find it important to make time to stop and reflect on that in which I am thankful, to give pause and to provide my thankfulness to God and to give back. Yet, in a world filled with so many frightening things, overfilled schedules and stressed out people, I find this tradition becoming easier and easier to forget. Not intentionally, by any means, but definitely neglected more than I care to admit.
And yet, gratitude is one of the most important and simple gifts that all of us can give – even 3 year olds. The more that I or anyone neglects gratitude, the easier it is to take things and life for granted. The less time I take to turn to God with thankfulness, the more I find myself focusing not on what I have, but what I do not have.
In the Christian faith, gratitude is essential to growing in faith. We profess that everything good we have is a gift that comes from God. The less we stop to thank God, the less we recognize all that God has provided for us and, before we know it, we can become disconnected and separated from God, finding ourselves questioning and wondering where God is.
Still, gratitude takes practice. As we think back to the first Thanksgiving in our country, hundreds of years ago, it could be easily argued from our vantage point today that they had very little for which to be thankful and yet these early settlers and native Americans found it important to come together, to give thanks and to turn to God, to set the stage of a tradition that has lasted over hundreds of years.
Perhaps what our first Thanksgiving can still teach us today is the importance of the practice of gratitude. The importance of recognizing what there is for which to be thankful. And then, perhaps, as we take the time to do this, our eyes will be open to see just how much God is with us and has always been. For I do not believe that God comes into this world to “fix it” but to be with us in it — to face all that comes our way with us, not a part.
So this Thanksgiving, for what are you thankful?
I am thankful for you — God’s creation — who took time to listen and read my words. I am thankful for family and friends, for car garages attached to my house, for my pets, for churches and for God who loves us, cares for us and is there for all of us no matter what is to come.