Nearly every culture expresses gratitude for bounteous harvests through some type of formal observations like Thanksgiving. Giving thanks helps us see beyond whatever challenges we may face and can turn us toward a positive appreciation for the blessings we enjoy in our lives.
“It’s hard to be thankful when things are going bad,” I once told Mom.
“That’s true,” she replied. “But it’s also hard to feel bad about your problems when you’re thinking about the things you have to be grateful for.”
I haven’t always been able to follow that counsel, but I’ve always been glad when I could.
Giving thanks is like everything else, though. We can do much more with our actions than we can with our words.
I was once working with an immigrant, Hassan, who wanted to write his autobiography. He was from Ethiopia, had gone through a lot in order to come to the United States and become a citizen, and wanted to record his story for his children and friends.
I would tape interviews with him, and then we worked together to convert the tapes into a book format. During one of our interviews, Hassan described his childhood home. His father was one of the wealthiest men in their village, and they lived on top of a hill overlooking a river. Their property was surrounded by a high fence that protected their livestock from the wild cats that roamed the area.
Hassan explained that there was a guard at the gate to his father’s home, and whenever someone would pass by – at this point, I expected him to say that the guard would drive them away, but instead he said, “ . . . the guard would tell them there was plenty of food at the table. Please come in and help yourself, and take some home to your family.”
I was stunned. “That seems a little strange to me,” I said. “Why did he do that?”
Now it was Hassan’s turn to be surprised. This was simply how things were done in his home. “Our religion teaches us that if we are blessed, we should share our blessings. If we don’t, we will lose them.”
What a great way to show gratitude!