Last Sunday, we had a guest preacher. His name is the Rev. H. Robert Samuels. His sermon title was "The Fine Art of Thanks Giving."
He used the phrase "Thanks giving is an attitude of gratitude."
I really liked that thought and quickly wrote it down, knowing if I didn't I'd probably forget it before the last coin was tossed in the offering plate.
He gave examples of how growing up, his parents stressed the importance of saying "Thank you" when he received gifts, in the form of a "Thank you" letter or note.
Those "Thank you" letters are easy to write when you receive a gift you like. But what do you say when you open a gift and absolutely hate it?
One year I received the most hideous object from an aunt I really liked. It could have been a funeral urn. It might have been a fancy dog bowl. I think it was a candy dish. It was very difficult to write a thank-you note for it. But I did. Because I loved my aunt. I knew she didn't have a lot of money and the fact that she thought enough of me to give me a gift at all meant more to me than the gift. Looking back over it, I realize I had practiced an "attitude of gratitude."
Thanksgiving has come and gone.
Leftovers are a given. Besides the stuff in the refrigerator, I'm still basking in the glow of a great family day because I spent it in the presence of people I love.
One of our Thanksgiving traditions is to give grace before we begin eating the feast before us and then after we've inhaled turkey, filling and all the trimmings, we go around the table and tell what we are thankful for.
Every one of us has something different to say but every one of us says, "Family." It's the common denominator from each.
That attitude of gratitude comes from my mother who instilled in my sister and I the importance of being grateful from the time we were babies. Raised during the Great Depression, Mom has always been thankful for everything she has been given, especially family. She taught us by deeds and action. No need by a family member was ever ignored, whether it was our small immediate family of four, or our large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There were always hugs and kisses and tons of "I love you's."
With a father who worked shifts, sometimes I never heard my father's voice until the weekend. But even if he was sound asleep, our mom would tell us to give him a kiss good-bye. We gave him feathery kisses before we left for school, trying hard not to wake him up. I didn't know it then, but now I see those silent kisses as an attitude of gratitude that I had a father who loved his family enough to work very hard to give us a comfortable life.
Thanksgiving is the only holiday that gives us something instead of us buying gifts. It gives us the opportunity to count our blessings and develop an attitude of gratitude for each life gift we receive.
After Thursday, came Black Friday and the official start of the Christmas season-the season of giving. There are so many opportunities to give. From putting in a few coins wherever you hear the Salvation Army bell ringing, to picking an ornament off an Angel Tree, to dropping toys off for Toys For Tots or items for our military personnel serving overseas, to our local food pantries.
I recently learned of a new ministry-Be A Santa to a Senior. It is an opportunity to pick an ornament off a tree with a local senior citizen's first name and their gift request. Many seniors have financial needs and have no family and are alone. This ministry can bring a smile to someone and help them know that someone out there cares.
Whether we give to Be A Santa to a Senior, Toys For Tots, etc., it is a way for us to pay forward, helping us develop that attitude of gratitude.
Thanks giving really is a fine art. And like any art, one must practice, practice, practice, long after we pulled the wishbone and ate the last leftover.
I'm very grateful to Pastor Samuels for reminding me to cop an attitude of gratitude, not just after receiving a present, but for all the gifts I am so blessed to receive, family, job, health, home and everything in-between.