I'm sure there are many things that we are all grateful for -- family, home, jobs, health, freedom of religion to mention just a few. However, gratitude and thanksgiving has a lot to do with circumstances. Many years ago when I was teaching a Sunday School class of kindergartners we were fast approaching Thanksgiving. In fact, it was the Sunday just prior to the big day. As part of my teaching, I had decided to ask the children to each one tell me something they were going to give thanks for on Thanksgiving. I had many hands waving in the air, and some voices asking to be picked first. Responses included many thanks being given for mommy and daddy, family, the dog or the cat, toys, books, cartoons -- they ran the gamut of things that come to the mind of a 4- or 5-year old. However, I came to the 5-year old daughter of close friends. I asked Nicole what she was most thankful for, and she replied in her sweet, tiny voice, "I'm thankful for 'restorants'!" It was all I could do not to laugh, but Nicole likely was thankful for places to go for a meal. You see Nicole's mommy didn't like to cook and often didn't. Nicole spent many mealtimes in a "restorant" eating food which filled her tummy and kept her healthy. Her circumstances definitely dictated her gratitude that day!
In Thessalonians 5:16-18, we are told to "[r]ejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." The homeless are most likely thankful for a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to lay their head that night provided by a shelter. There may be those who have a home but no money to buy food, and so they are thankful for a meal of any kind. The mother with a sick child is probably not focused on preparing a meal, but on getting that child medical help and is therefore thankful for the nurses and doctors in an urgent care center or emergency room. The lonely senior citizens of our country are thankful to see a smiling face at their door bringing a meal from Meals on Wheels. Perhaps a lonely neighbor would be grateful for your call to see if he or she is staying warm or just to say hello. Or perhaps a lovely piece of pumpkin pie delivered by you or members of your family would be the thing that person says thanks for that night. Our military and their families will be happy to be able to speak to each other and through today's technology maybe see each other.
The iconic painting by Norman Rockwell, Thanksgiving, is what we are all most familiar with when it comes to Thanksgiving memories and celebrations. Not all of us have experienced that kind of Thanksgiving celebration. Those of us who have indeed have something to be grateful for and we should be lifting our hearts and voices to God with an abundance of joy and in thanksgiving.
As you gather around your table, pause not only to say thanks for the meal laid before you, but to give thanks for all those things you take for granted each day. Think of the people struggling through circumstances you perhaps have never even thought about and realize that their circumstances create their level and kind of gratitude. Gratitude in all things means expressing thanks for whatever comes our way.
To each of you reading this, may your Thanksgiving be filled with family, food and creation of memories for the generations coming up behind you.