Having six grandchildren under 7, I find myself doing a lot of reminding after giving something or serving something to them: “Now what do you say?” “Thank you, Grandma.” Fortunately, I usually don’t have to coax, just remind…but I do have to remind. Anyone who has raised a child or taught a child or been a child (that covers everyone…) knows that thankfulness is a learned trait. Unfortunately, we are not born with grateful hearts. The feeling of entitlement starts early.
We live in a culture that is inundated with the sense of “I deserve this…” You fill in the blank. We watch daily as the collateral damage of entitlement takes our peace, our civility and, ironically, our dignity. There isn’t much that is more obnoxious than a spoiled brat insisting on getting their own way. I guess that’s what I feel like I’ve been watching all year in the political “adventure” of 2016. Preferring one another, being kind to one another, being compassionate to one another, bearing one another’s burdens…pick any one of the 59 “one anothers” in scripture and they have seemed to be MIA this past year. But it’s not just politics. It’s not even the many things we have genuine disagreements about. It’s that we need to be reminded…actually we’re going to need quite a bit of coaxing, I’m afraid…that the basis for making the world a better place is a grateful heart.
We need to remember that none of us made it this far without help…lots of help…from parents, family, friends, teachers, pastors, coaches, colleagues. We need to remember the people who have gone before us and paved the way. People who have given their lives for our freedom, safety and well-being. Someone paved the road you drove on this morning. Someone stocked the shelves for your grocery shopping this week. Someone milked a cow, harvested wheat, sewed your clothes, built your home, kept the lights on….you get my point. We need to remember that in America we have been extraordinarily blessed. We need to remember that when it gets right down to it, we ALL have much more in common than we have things that divide us. People who remember these things and live with a grateful heart grow grace and compassion and empathy and kindness, and yes, problem solving and encouragement and strength for difficult days. They bring out the best in each other, not our base instincts. That’s how we make the world a better place.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday that gives a specific opportunity to pause …to be reminded…to give thanks. I don’t know what your thankfulness list is, but I hope you’ll actually sit down and write one. It will do you good and it will be a good prompt to say thank you to everyone you meet for what they bring to your life – even the people who irritate you help you develop patience and perseverance!
I don’t mean to minimize the legitimate difficulties that may be part of your life right now, but I do know this: you can still find things for which to say thank you. Even the Apostle Paul, writing from prison wrote: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful… And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Giving thanks may not be a natural instinct, but it is a divine one. I pray that you will take the opportunity to say “thank you” to lots of people this week and remember that it is a vital part of growing up. It’s not possible to be a spoiled brat and have a grateful heart at the same time. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving as you work on your grateful heart.