We have birthday lists, family tree lists, Christmas card lists, Christmas party lists and Christmas gift lists. And to launch that season in an effort to put it all in proper perspective, we make another very important list.
To acknowledge the source of all that we have, all that we are and all that we hope for, we try to list our blessings. We admit, up front, that we take much of God’s goodness for granted, including creature comforts … food, shelter, clothing, and in this modern age, transportation, communication, water, electricity, and even trash pick-up and entertainment.
As to be expected, a list of blessings might sound a lot like bragging. But the God to whom our gratitude is expressed is the giver of all, including such blessings as a smile on a baby’s face, a good lab report, an unexpected four-page handwritten letter from a new-found relative and the news that another great-granddaughter has professed a faith for a lifetime and awaits baptism.
Since our thanks should be directed to our God, our omniscient, omnipotent creator, the need to make a list seems redundant. But the very act of thinking through all of our blessings will make us recognize just how praiseworthy he is.
Throughout the past few days, I’ve had a few moments of realization that the “little” things are blessings just as real as the “big” things. My Saturdays are free now; a few holiday TV movies have put me in the Christmas spirit; the Women in Woodstock Past exhibit has proven to be more than we could ever have imagined; it doesn’t take much effort to have fun at a birthday party at Dean’s Store; I found a pair of shoes that didn’t pinch those ornery spots on my feet; nothing takes your mind off the daily grind like lunch with a friend at Tea Leaves and Thyme; I saw the Rockettes; I had a wonderful trip to my high school class reunion and saw friend-and-kin; and the technology that I have tried to ignore has brought me many messages and photographs to be thankful for, all in a matter of days.
The list is endless. My blessings sound a bit oversimplified, and very selfish. But so be it. I think others were blessed as well.
I have advocated for a few years now that genuine gratitude to God involves a bit more than saying “thank you.” Each blessing should be matched by a corresponding action. If we are thankful for good health, we’ll take care of our bodies, the temples of our souls.
We’ll nourish those friendships we’re blessed with. We’ll show our appreciation of our hometown atmosphere and landscape by refraining from littering.
We’re blessed by great schools, made even better when we volunteer, and when we give recognition to faculty and staff and students. The overall life of our community is made better by civic groups, and opportunities abound to volunteer in all kinds of generous activities.
It’s the ideal way to express our thankfulness for the blessings we experience all day, every day. When that happens, we’ll discover our thankful hearts have come full circle.
Gratitude has turned into an attitude of action. No better time than Thanksgiving to jump-start a new outlook, a new way of expressing how grateful we are.
That old standby, Psalm 100, is a short list of commandments to God’s children about giving thanks, joyfully. Centuries later, there was a new commandment, “Love one another.” Love, like thanks, needs to be expressed.
Someone named John Miller once said, “How happy a person is depends on the depth of his gratitude.” Gratitude doesn’t just happen. It has to be nourished and formed into a habit. Once that happens, the by-product is happiness. In these few days of Thanksgiving, there is always anticipation for what comes next.
Through the giving of thanks, our hearts will be prepared for the season to follow, the season of the Nativity when the greatest gift of all appeared. We pray for strength and initiative and inspiration that we might use our many blessings, our gifts, in ways that are pleasing to God, not only at Thanksgiving, but throughout Christmas and every day of a new year.
May we recognize God’s blessings and give Him all praise. Happy Thanksgiving.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.