More Than Thanksgiving
Why is it that some people are grateful for life's blessings while others seem to be fixated on the inequities of life? You will find this disparity in people regardless of social or economic standing, regardless of age or gender or even geographical location and even among those who enjoy good health and those who do not. Many times it is the ones who should be most pessimistic that are actually the most optimistic and vice-versa. In part, I have heard it attributed to various causes such as personality type, education, and even upbringing. Nevertheless, one thing remains true - people cannot be forced to feel grateful - maybe to act grateful, but certainly not to feel it.
It seems that in order for one to truly feel gratitude one must open one's heart and mind to see the good that has already come his way. When he is open to the good that he already has in his life he will also be prone to see the good that will come his way in the future.
When we think of this sentiment of thankfulness, scriptures or poems usually come to one's mind. Over the years I have often prepared homilies on the subject of thankfulness using verses from the Psalms. But never have I noticed what a wonderful thanksgiving message is found in Psalm 23.
This Psalm is mostly used at funerals or to encourage those who are suffering, but note how this psalm is filled with such gratitude. King David's heart is open to God's blessings. His focus is on things other than his problems. He is taking time to remember the blessings of the past and to make a statement about his hopes for the future.
He writes, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." NIV
David clearly sees that God is his infinite source of blessings. Even though he has good reason to believe this, all the same, this is the attitude that he has chosen to have. Having the right attitude begins with seeing beyond oneself.
I have often been amazed that people can see the commonality and prevalence of suffering in the world. Yet, they cannot see the commonality of blessings. These pessimists fail to see that good also comes to all. The problem for them is often in being dissatisfied with the blessings which have come their way - a problem only they can choose to solve. Having the right attitude is enhanced by understanding the universality of the human experience.
But perhaps the greatest failing of us all is failing to see that our greatest blessing is in being able to be a blessing to someone else. Without a doubt there are people much less fortunate than ourselves, but sadly, we often forget that we have the power to change that. Perhaps the greatest testimony and use of our life is found not in rejoicing over what we have, but in reaching out of our blessed life into the life of someone less fortunate for the purpose of bringing change to their situation. Having the right attitude is truly seen in our care for others.
With this in mind, perhaps with all we have planned for the holidays, maybe this will be the Thanksgiving season that will move us to do more than to simply reflect on our blessings.