As we wind our way through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I am reminded of how often I hear someone speak of the lack of gratitude or appreciation they see in so many people and especially younger people.
As I consider this today, I think perhaps each of us needs to pause and consider that none of us come into this world with a gratefulness or thankfulness DNA genetic code built in. As a whole, each of us arrives focused on getting our needs met and from the very beginning we find some amazing ways to accomplish that.
If nothing interrupts that process, it continues and can become more and more ugly.
The truth is that gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.
The first place of learning for you as well as me was at home. It was there I was taught to say “please” and “thank you”. But beyond what I was taught, I was blessed to observe parents who modeled that daily in their own lives.
Neither of my parents was born into wealthy families. They both grew up on farms where hard work was needed and expected. Each of them experienced significant loss early in their lives. My father’s dad died when he was only five years old so he never grew up knowing him. A fire destroyed my mother’s home when she was a freshman in high school and her family spent a year living separately in different homes while a new home was built.
Perhaps those very difficulties were used by the Lord to nurture gratefulness versus bitterness and self-pity. Each of their families pulled together during those hard times instead of breaking apart as a result of their faith that was not dependent on circumstances or everything going well.
I was born into that legacy. Along with the model of gratefulness and thankfulness came another. They were generous with time, love, service, and limited income.
Each of my parents served in PTA, Sunday School, and a long list of other opportunities that church, school, and community provided. But there were other things I saw which were not visible to everyone.
One example that I watched was how they worked and tended a huge garden for the whole of their lives. They probably could have sold produce that we did not need to add to their income, but instead they offered what they did not need to others in the neighborhood or at church who had less. Their garden bore fruit beyond the produce they shared with others.
Our Thanksgiving table always included a patchwork of people who had no one to share the day. Sometimes these were widowed sisters or other relatives or people from our church who were alone. Anyone was welcome at their table. That included my friends and later friends of our children and even the families of friends.
Gratefulness was a way of life that was evident every day, not just on Thanksgiving.
My parents sowed seed not only in me, but also in our son and daughter, their grandchildren. Each of them is now married with children of their own. I see in them the fruit that began many years ago and I see it in their children, my grandchildren, their great grandchildren, as well.
My parents have been at home with the Lord for twenty years and no other celebration brings a greater sense of them than Thanksgiving. I am reminded again this year of what each of us can pass on to others, to the next generation. Two key principles stand out:
Gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.
Gratefulness should be a way of life every day.