“Gratitude,” the famous Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
In more recent times, President John F. Kennedy said, “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
It might be fruitful for all of us to ponder at Thanksgiving time these two thoughts on gratitude — to think about not only what we are grateful for, but also how we express our thankfulness in prayer to God, in our lives, and in our relationships with all of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
Do we count our blessings, or do we live lives of “I wish I had ‚Ä¶”?
Do we remember to thank God for all that we have been given?
Are we good stewards of our time, talent and treasure, or do we tend to cling to our possessions and be just a little too protective of our extra time? If we can truly make a difference in the lives of others by sharing our blessings and our energies, do we?
Do we follow Jesus’ example of loving sacrifice for others?
If we tell God in our prayers that we are thankful for the life provided to us, do we walk around with an “attitude of gratitude” or do we transmit to others dourness, anger or aggressiveness, even meanness of spirit?
Finally, do we take others for granted — even God and those closest to us?
Living life with a sense of gratitude as our guiding force — which Cicero reminds us leads to many other fruits in our lives — is certainly not easy, especially in dark times. From my own experience, I can tell you that it takes a much greater effort to be thankful when things in our lives do not go as planned, when illness takes away our strength, when a loved one or a friend is suffering or has been taken from us.
As well, the constant information explosion in our daily lives, the inundation of news 24 hours a day, can test even the firmest glass-half-full optimist.
But I can also tell you that in those most challenging of times I have leaned on God the most. I have asked for God’s help in my personal life and when the troubles of the world created a sense of gloom and doom. I have always been grateful that I have had faith to lean on and a magnificent Savior whose compassion knows no bounds. Through these challenging experiences, God is always there for us, always ready to give us strength, spark our hope and deepen our trust.
On Thanksgiving Day, when we gather around our tables and focus on our families and all of our blessings, let us not only say thanks with our heads bowed, but also with our hands and feet poised to say “Thanks be to God” with true action in the world.
And let this be true on the day after Thanksgiving and the day after.
Peace to all.