I love Thanksgiving! I love that our nation sets aside a day each year for the express purpose of reflecting on and celebrating the joys and blessings of our lives. I love that Thanksgiving brings families and friends together for a wonderful meal (with plenty of leftovers). (And in my immediate family, I love that Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to celebrate 5 birthdays that all accumulate within a five-day span around Thanksgiving.)
My only problem with Thanksgiving is that we sometimes reduce the matter of gratitude to a one-day holiday rather than practicing it as a daily lifestyle. If we reduce the giving of thanks to one day per year, we deprive ourselves and others of the joy that gratitude produces.
Joseph Addison says it well: “There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.”
How can we practice gratitude as a daily lifestyle? Most of all by expressing it.
Robert Brault states, “There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.”
William Arthur Ward adds, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Along with enjoying some turkey and pies on Thanksgiving, I would like to encourage you to express your gratitude to someone who has made a positive difference in your life.
Perhaps a story David MacLennan shares in No Coward Soul will inspire you:
“When the late William L. Stridger was professor of preaching at Boston University, he mentioned to a friend that he was very grateful to a high school teacher named Mrs. Wendt who had introduced him to Tennyson. Dr. Stridger’s friend then asked if the professor had ever told Mrs. Wendt how much he appreciated her contribution to his life. ‘I’m afraid not,’ he replied. ‘I’ve never taken the trouble to tell her.’
“‘Then,’ challenged his friend, ‘why don’t you write her?’
“Dr. Stridger decided to do just that. Before long he received a letter from Mrs. Wendt. She wrote,
“‘I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my 80s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has in years.’
“In turn, of course, Mrs. Wendt’s note to Dr. Stidger lifted his spirits. The fact that she called him ‘Willie’ made him smile. Here he was—a man of 50, fat and bald—and she called him the name she had addressed him by when he was a teenager. Beyond that, he was glad that he had taken the time to express his gratefulness and thereby cheer up the dear teacher who had given him the great gift of knowledge.”
Let’s make it our aim to live out the joy of giving thanks not just one day a year but every day! ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.