Because of my exploration of gratitude, I’ve been paying special attention this Thanksgiving. I am watching closely to see what people are thankful for. Oh, Facebook, you make it so easy to do non-scientific research. I notice that when people post what they are thankful for, it is always first and foremost, family and friends. Second, people thank God (or the Universe or whatever they believe allows them to have these entities they are grateful for) for their home, their jobs, the relative safety of living in this country. They thank for overcoming an illness or being sustained through one. They thank those in the armed forces, police, first responders. They thank for their pets. For good food. For nice weather.
Some that were unique and interesting:
Thankful that an older relative saved old photos to look at now
Thankful for dinners without electronics
Thankful for coworkers to brave difficult work alongside
Thankful I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner
Thankful for a black Friday shopping partner
Thankful for a mom who can be counted on
Thankful for the ability to pay it forward
We are wired to be thankful. It comes spilling out of us when prompted. Gratitude is the right response to this wonderful life. Even if we don’t feel like our life is wonderful right now, or if this has been a really hard year, as it has for some of us, it’s possible to see beyond the cloudy, dark moment caused by pain, loss or fear. The world is abundant! Hope is just beyond that dark cloud. And sometimes dark clouds bring rain and rain makes things grow, and that rain from that dark cloud prompts what will eventually be a needed harvest. Harvest requires rain. The thunder and lightning that come with it must be withstood by the hope of that harvest.
God has blessed us with such freedom, such hope, such opportunity. Especially in suburban, rural or fancy urban American areas where most of my peeps live.
Yesterday, I spent the first half of my day at Light of Life Rescue Mission where I work. We have a number of different programs and services, and one is to serve meals to those in need. We serve breakfast and dinner 365 days a year. On Thanksgiving Day we serve over 1,000 meals to hungry people. This is the seventh year I have done this, and it is a miracle every year. It is many miracles every year. It is miraculous to me that people care so much to help that our volunteer spots (Over 100) are full by early October. It’s a great problem to have to have to turn away so many willing hearts. It’s a miracle that so many people who are in need can experience a warm, lovingly prepared meal, served by gentle hands, surrounded by kind spirits, offering up God’s love to any takers.
I watch the faces of those who come for a meal. I carefully make eye contact and say “Happy Thanksgiving.” The responses vary. “Thank you.” Quiet, nervous, maybe a bit ashamed. “Same to you!” Hearty, booming, possibly intoxicated. “Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.” Humble, Appreciative. No response. A nod. A high five. A hug. A shy smile. It’s no chore to me to do my part to provide this food (mostly I manage the people who do the real work, and just make sure everything is as it should be, like a surveillance plane, way up in the sky, noticing all that is well and the small things that need adjusting.) It’s no chore to help a young mother find a winter coat for her little daughter. It’s my great joy, in fact. I actually have to step away, at times, to not be greedy, and allow others the joy of helping. I step back and I watch a nervous volunteer carefully check tags, looking for a 5T size coat. I watch two men calmly decide who the really cool leather jacket fits better. Strangers until that coat. One holds the other’s belongings as they try it on for size. Jovial. Laughing. Knowing there are plenty of coats for all. I bow my head grateful that we don’t have scarcity today. Food for all. Coats for all. One only need a bit of patience to wait in line for a short while. A man and woman sit down on the ground and find comfort in each other. They can’t stay there, because they are in everyone’s way, but the sweetness and the miracle of their claiming that grassy spot for a few moments to rest and feel safe and calm, surrounded by the love and care of so many people who want to reach out, to bless, to give, to love.
The news cameras and the reporters with their pens and microphones come to see. They come to share the story. The story of blessing and gratitude. They don’t know, but they bring glory to my God as they share this work on their tv stations and their newspapers. We don’t have to say it. We know who does all of this and what great things He is up to. Craig Wolfley, former Steeler and current broadcaster, and my friend, stood up to share in the chapel that the real miracle is that for all of us, the one in 100,000 NFL player, the lady next to him with stage 4 colon cancer, the drunk fellow in the back row, the ex-con by the door, the suburban stay at home mom spooning gravy, the lumber jack looking guy answering the phone at the front desk, the Hispanic family who doesn’t speak English but followed the trail of blessings to our doorstep – Jesus came for us all. To scoop us all up from our messed up ways. He knows it all. He forgives it all. All that we are ashamed of. In Him, we have eternal life, and we begin an epic adventure of faith. Faith that allows people like me to have astounding hope that crushes all fear.
As I wrap up my challenge of writing down 1,000 blessings I’ve been bestowed with, I wonder how I lived before. Not noticing. Not making note. Not thanking as a practice.
I’m thankful to write this. I’m thankful anyone would read this. That it would bless anyone in any way. It’s what I have to give. My observations organized into ideas and then words. I hope you like it. I hope it matters to you. I hope it is a blessing to you and that it might somehow make it’s tiny way into your long list of things you’re grateful for.