Summary: The ability to give thanks is a matter of perspective and attitude. A message for a Thanksgiving holiday service.
Thanksgiving Eve Service
Maybe you heard of the identical twins who were really opposites. One had the personality of the eternal optimist. Everything was always working out; it was going to be great. Everything was very hopeful. His brother, however, saw everything in its worst possible light. Worst case scenario. The parents were worried about this. They went to a psychologist and he offered up a simple plan to try to blend the two personalities to achieve a little more balance.
He said that on their next birthday, you give the optimist a box of manure and stick him in one room by himself. To the pessimist, you put him in a room by himself and give him all the best toys and presents you can possibly afford.
So the next birthday rolled around and that is what they did. They peeked in the room. The pessimist looked at his new presents and said, “This computer is too slow. My friends have a faster one. I know this new bike is just going to break. My friends have a remote control car that is better than this one.” Everything was just bad.
They tiptoed across the hallway to the optimist. He was gleefully throwing the manure up in the air and had a big smile on his face. They heard him say, “You can’t fool me. If there is this much manure, I know there has got to be a pony in here somewhere.” It all depends on how we look at things doesn’t it?
The ability to give thanks is a matter of perspective and attitude. Our level of thankfulness is closely tied to how we choose to look at things.
If a person from outer space who had no prior knowledge of our culture was dropped into America three months ago would the word “thankful” have been one of the first adjectives he used in describing us?
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that “thankful” might not have ranked too high in a list of words an outsider might have chosen when talking about us. We always wanted just a little bit more.
If our jobs were a little different. If our houses looked differently. If our neighborhood was different. If our spouses, if our families, if our careers, if whatever.
It is the athlete who wanted a higher salary or to play for a different team. The child who wanted more toys. Or the teenager who wanted more popularity. The executive who wanted more perks or just the rest of us who wanted more leisure or more pay or just some of the stuff we want that we thought would make us happy.
And so this outsider might logically wonder, do you feel thankful THIS November?
After September eleven, do you feel thankful?
After anthrax attacks, do you feel thankful?
After our legislators, Supreme Court justices, governors, and working men and women from postal employees to hospital workers had to flee their work places because of deadly attacks on this nation, do you feel thankful?
After America’s military personal—our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, moms and dads—once again have been placed in harm’s way, do you feel thankful?
After hearing voices of hate night after night and seeing violent demonstrations in the streets day after day—all directed against the U.S., do you feel thankful?
After canceling long-planned trips, or losing a job because of an economy thrown into recession, or attending memorial services for those who were killed from this outpouring of evil, do you feel thankful?
Do you feel thankful THIS November?
And I believe this November… this Thanksgiving, the overwhelming majority of Americans would respond to those questions with a resounding yes! Yes, we feel very thankful! Perhaps more so than in any other year. Why do you think we feel so thankful after so much trouble? Why are we more grateful after so much has been taken away?
In an article in this week’s issue of TIME magazine, Nancy Gibbs hints at the answer. In pondering the paradoxical nature of Thanksgiving she says…
“It is an ordeal to travel and yet we do; family reunions can be wildly stressful and yet painful to miss…. This is the kind of holiday we need right now, an intrinsically complicated one that comes at the end of a bitter harvest and finds something sweet to celebrate. Everyone is a pilgrim now, stripped down to bare essentials and a single carry-on bag to sustain us in a strange new world.” (Nancy Gibbs, “We Gather Together,” TIME, 11-19-01, p. 29)
Did you catch what she said?
Everyone is a pilgrim now… Stripped down to the bare essentials…to sustain us in a strange new world. I think she means we are collectively evaluating what is foundational in life. We are beginning to realize what is truly important. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what we would like to obtain, we are becoming aware of what we already have. And these are the things for which we are thankful.