Grace, gratitude: Recipe for Thanksgiving

Published 1:21 am Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving season brings back memories of two pictures I’ve seen in many homes through the years. Often, the pair hang side by side on the wall near a kitchen or dining room table.

The pictures look like portraits of an elderly couple. A white-haired old man with a beard, his hands clasped and pressed against his forehead, seems to be praying. Beside him on the table where he is seated one can see a small loaf of bread, knife, bowl and a Family Bible with eye glasses folded and lying on top of it. His picture is titled “Grace.”

A second picture shows a wrinkled woman with silver white, wavy hair seated at a table, an open Bible in front of her with eye glasses resting on a page of Scripture. She, too, has her hands clasp as though in prayer. Next to the Bible, there’s a small loaf of bread and wedge of cheese on a wooden plate near a cream-colored ceramic pitcher. Her picture is called “Gratitude.”

The two actually never met each other. The picture of the old gentleman dates back to World War I. In 1918, a peddler named Charles Wilden, who sold boot scrapers, knocked on the door of photographer Eric Enstrom in Bovey, Minnesota. According to historical accounts of their chance meeting, Enstrom was preparing a portfolio of pictures to take to the Minnesota Photographers Association convention.

Enstrom reportedly commented, “I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war, they still had much to be thankful for.” He saw something in the kind face of the peddler and asked him to pose for a picture at the table as though he were praying over a meager meal. A businessman wrote about the picture in a newspaper column and “Grace” became an iconic symbol of thanksgiving.

With the popularity of “Grace,” an Indiana gift company named Dickson began searching for a companion portrait of an elderly woman during the 1960’s. Over 1000 photos were submitted, but not one of them was selected. When Jack Garren, owner of a religious bookstore in Centralia, Illinois, found out about the search, he immediately suggested his grandmother, Mrs. Myrtle Copple.

For years, people had commented how the old man in “Grace” resembled Myrtle’s father. Garren convinced his grandmother to pose for a series of photographs, seated at a table with an open Bible, her head bowed and hands folded. “Gratitude” became as popular as “Grace,” with thousands of pictures sold.

When you gather around the table with your family this Thanksgiving, remember to say grace and offer gratitude to God for all He provides. Jesus gave us an example to follow when He took “the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Matthew 14:19).

“Gratitude grows from a seed called grace,” writes Louie Giglio. Live each day with an attitude of gratitude and grow in grace.


-Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at