“Some Folks Feel the Rain, Others Just Get Wet.” That’s the title to a book by someone named James W. Moore. It goes on for 15 chapters with themes that sound like country music songs. “Can You Feel the Joy of Freedom?” and “Can You Feel the Power of Love?” and “Can You Feel the Good Side of Worry?” and “Can You Feel the Sense of What’s Valuable?”
One chapter title brings us to the season now upon us: “Can You Feel the Attitude of Gratitude?”
Thanksgiving is rooted in a spirit nurtured by grace. We all learned about Pilgrims seeking religious liberty in the New World and barely surviving the cold winter and poor crops. We’ve heard about the hospitality of Native Americans and the meager feast of gratitude to God for life in the face of unimaginable threats.
True thanksgiving grows from a sense that we are not alone and we have been given more than we deserve. It doesn’t matter how much or little you have or whether you think you earned it or received it; the key to thankfulness is the sense that you have been gifted by a Giver and know you must return thanks in order to avoid becoming an ingrate.
The ever-quotable G. K. Chesterton said: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” So in that spirit, let’s double down on gratitude this year. Here are a few lower forms of thought on the subject that may raise our thanks a notch or two.
First, meditate on mercy. An entitlement mentality has immobilized Congress and held up an unflattering mirror to the American character. By entitlement I do not mean Social Security and Medicare — those planned benefits that Americans have paid into all their working lives in order to receive back due security and health care. I mean the meanness that says either “the government owes me this or that” or “I don’t owe the government this or that.” Chesterton again: “We are all in the same boat, on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terribly loyalty.” We will never become truly grateful people if we attend only to what we are owed rather than to what already has been done for us.
Second, gratitude and giving go together. The more you practice one, the more the other follows. Many of us will spend time opening the mail or email over this holiday weekend from churches and other non-profit organizations that have learned that this a good time to solicit donations. Say yes. Find excuses to say yes rather than no. Do your due diligence if you wish to see which organizations are most effective or deserving, but in the end give because you are grateful not because someone else needs it.
Finally, attach one new commitment to give yourself beyond a financial contribution. Send a check, but also volunteer once a month in the soup line or mentoring a child or teaching Sunday school. Make a habit of being a grateful giver by giving yourself.
Thanksgiving can usher in a virtuous cycle that can change the world by changing each of us. Grace to gratitude to giving to grace to gratitude to giving …
Thanks be to God.