Thanksgiving invites us to share our gratitude Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

In Living Life on Purpose, Greg Anderson tells of a mother and her little daughter who were eating breakfast in a restaurant. The little girl asked, “Mommy, why don’t we pray here before we eat like we do at home?”

The waitress overheard her and said, “Honey, it’s okay to pray here. Why don’t you say the prayer before meals for us now?” Then the waitress asked everyone in the restaurant to bow their heads.

Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. Then the little girl folded her hands and prayed, “God is great. God is good. We thank him for our food. Amen.”

Her prayer changed the restaurant’s somber atmosphere. People who never spoke to each other began to visit. A depressed man whose wife recently left him began to thank God for all that he had and stopped focusing upon what he didn’t have. The waitress thanked the girl and suggested, “We should say this prayer every morning before meals.”

Being a thankful person

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus cured 10 lepers. But only the Samaritan leper thanked him. In a sad voice, Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” Thanks seemed to be one of Jesus’ favorite words.

Every day Cicely Saunders, who founded hospice, prayed, “Lord, what must I do today to thank you and serve you?” She was truly a thankful person.

Parents teach their children at an early age to express their gratitude. If someone gives their child a gift, good parents say: “Now what do you say?” And the child learns to say “Thank you.”

Once at another restaurant, I opened the door for a mother who carried her little boy. “Thank you, sir,” she said. Her little boy repeated her words, “Thank you sir, thank you,” he shouted. His gratitude moved me and others. It was a teachable moment for everyone there.

Deepening our relationships

Being grateful makes us more appreciative of life and deepens our relationships of love. In Enriching Your Marriage, James E. Faust wrote that gratitude is one of the secrets of a happy marriage. When husband and wife show genuine gratitude and love to both God and spouse, it strengthens their marriage.

Little grateful daily things that spouses do for each other can become big things. They can help the couple and their children grow in Christ-like love. Columnist Dan Morris wrote that a well-placed note of gratitude can work wonders for a marriage.

Roots of Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a national holiday when we thank God for our blessings. Its roots go back to the pilgrims whom the Old Testament influenced.

After a severe winter when over half of them died from scurvy, exposure to the elements, and other causes, the pilgrims set aside three days to thank God for their blessings. One way they thanked God was by sharing some of their blessings with Indian friends. On Thanksgiving Day we can also thank God for our blessings by sharing with friends, family and the needy.

When I was in the Navy, I was feeling sorry for myself because I seemed doomed to spend another Thanksgiving alone, away from home. Then a young couple invited me and a shipmate to share their Thanksgiving meal.

The husband explained that he had once been in the Navy. One Thanksgiving he was lonely and homesick. Then a couple invited him to share a Thanksgiving meal. They made him feel at home. He promised God that someday he would reciprocate by sharing Thanksgiving with homesick military personnel. My shipmate and I were grateful that he did.

Giving thanks for our blessings

Brother David Steindl-Rast wrote that 99 percent of the time we have opportunities to be grateful for something. We just don’t notice it. Thanksgiving Day offers us opportunities to thank God for our blessings by giving to food pantries, sponsoring a third world child, calling lonely persons, sharing meals with shut-ins, or contributing to help the poor.

We can pray for starving people who would gladly devour our scraps if they could. St. John Chrysostom, an early Church father wrote, “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and to deprive them of life.”

On Thanksgiving Day we can thank God for gifts of food, friends. and family. We can thank God for eyes to see, ears to hear, arms to embrace, and feet to go the extra mile for others. We can pray before and after meals. The Holy Spirit will show us other ways to be thankful, if we ask.

Since the word Eucharist means thanksgiving, we can especially thank God by participating in Thanksgiving Day Mass. At Mass we receive the Body of Christ to strengthen us to give thanks by sharing our blessings with others.

I close by inviting you to pray with me the tiny girl’s prayer, “God is great. God is good. We thank him for the food of this day.” May we use our food’s energy to love like Jesus and to share our blessings with persons in need. Amen.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.