Two days shy of Thanksgiving, I thought it appropriate to share a few thoughts on gratitude.
Years ago, my mother tried to explain her concept of faith in the following way (she used the Mormon term "testimony" in the original):
The idea of [faith] once seemed complicated to me and now seems much simpler. Sometimes, it seems as simple as gratitude--the ability to acknowledge divine purpose and order in all creation with a full and thankful heart--the joy of being alive, running, swimming, seeing, hearing, loving--the joy of seashells and stones, of colored fruit from the brown earth--rainbows in the air.
On another occasion, she said it this way: "The Lord has provided so much for us. In our abundance, we have become thoughtless--even offensive. ... It seems to me we have two duties: to remember the source of our blessings and to share them."
What got me thinking about gratitude was a documentary Becky and I watched recently called "God Grew Tired of Us" which tells the story of three young men, representatives of the so called "Lost Boys" of Southern Sudan, who fled violent upheaval in their country, endured incredible hardships and depredations along the way, languished for years in a refugee camp, and finally came to America as part of a special program to resettle them.
The take home message for me--apart from the idea that we Americans may have something to learn from these young men, their culture, and the way they care for each other--was gratitude: gratitude for family and friends and community, for a roof over my head, and clothes on my back, and food on the table. Clean drinking water. Time to think. Education. Medical care. All the day-to-day miracles that that we take for granted.
I was startled too by how the gratitude these young men felt for the opportunities they were given translated immediately into a desire to do as my mother suggested--to share them. While still in Africa, one started a "Parliament" to help the other boys keep their minds off their empty stomachs. Another started a foundation to build hospitals in his home country, and a third wants to build a school. Great examples: these boys who grew up with so little, deprived of all the things we take for granted.
And so, my Thansgiving prayer is for a deeper sense of gratitude, and appreciation for everyday miracles: wise mothers, the soft light of early dawn, clean water from the tap, a smile from a friend, or the touch of a loved one's hand.
(Photo courtesy of Pat Di Fruscia, available at http://i1.trekearth.com/photos/6638/morning_mist.jpg.)