COLUMN: Celebrate Thanksgiving year-round with ‘Thanks-living’

Published 7:30 am Sunday, November 19, 2023

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Several years ago, groups of people from various churches in our county traveled to Haiti – some on medical mission trips and other groups to help with construction of churches in Jacmel and Anse Du Clerce. The week they spent there made a lasting impact on their lives.

They told about the tent cities where thousands were living due to the destruction caused by an earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. The day after returning home from the trip, my husband, Greg, went into a local grocery store and commented that he saw more food in that one grocery store than he had seen the entire week in Jacmel. The stark comparison was like a cultural after-shock.

Pastor Franky Jeune, the mission teams’ interpreter in Haiti, has spoken in many churches in our county. He shares how the Haitians must trust God every day for their food because they never had enough set aside for tomorrow.

I was reminded, once again, how much I take for granted each day. Pastor Franky’s statement also reminded me of the request in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11). It’s something most Americans do not have to do. We are basically in the one percent and the rest of the world in the 99 percent, when it comes to having plenty of food.

Too often, I have to be reminded of what others do not have to be reminded of why I should be thankful for all I do have. Helen Keller once said, “I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during their early adult life. It would make them more appreciative of sight and the joys of sound.”

Someone once said that the words “thank” and “think” come from the same root. Author Max Lucado has asked, “Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give you only that which you remember to thank him for?”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they’re visible every night, we rarely give them a look.

Maybe we should consider celebrating Thanksgiving year-round by thanks-living. Make giving thanks a part of daily living. First, there’s vertical thanks, directed to God each day as we think of at least one thing for which we are thankful to Him.

Secondly, there’s horizontal thanks, toward our fellowman. Say “thank you” to the person who opens a door for you. Thank the waitress for serving your meal, and then return thanks to God for providing it. When I see a soldier in uniform, I say, “Thank you for serving our country.” When we grow our gratitude, we are living the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12).

“Thanks” is the easiest thing to give – a simple spoken word to express gratitude. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”