Counting our blessings on Thanksgiving Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes

A blind boy sat holding a hat. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat.

A man took some coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. Then he turned the sign around and wrote some words. After he did this, many more people were giving money to the blind boy.That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were going. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write? People are giving much more money?"

The man replied, I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it." The first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told givers that they were richly blessed, because they were not blind and could see God's blessings.

Appreciating our blessings

We are blessed if we can see, but sometimes we are spiritually blind towards our blessings. We live in a country of plenty in a world of want, a land of religious and political freedom, in a world of ethnic cleansing and zero tolerance, in a land at peace in a world at war.

We are blessed because we have legs to walk, eyes to see, and ears to hear and reasonably good health.

I appreciated this more after I woke up one morning and I could not hear. This disturbed me, because I had promised to give a talk in Madison that I desperately wanted to give. Should I go or not? I decided to go.

When I gave the talk, my lips moved, but I did not know if any sound was coming out. I went to the doctor the next day. A compassionate nurse flushed a big ball of wax out of my ear, and I could hear!

This experience helped me appreciate how wonderful the gift of hearing is and to have compassion for those who cannot hear. I am grateful for still having the gift of walking, hearing, speaking, and life. I am grateful for my parents in giving birth to me, for the gift of food, clothing, and shelter. Yet we have to set aside one day a year to remind us to give thanks to God for blessings we see and don't see!

Tradition of Thanksgiving

American tradition links Thanksgiving's origins to the pilgrims whom the Old Testament influenced. After a long hard winter during which many died, the surviving pilgrims set aside three days to thank God for their blessings and to share their blessings with Indian friends.

Thanks especially to the persistent efforts of widow Sarah Hale, known as the "Mother of Thanksgiving Day," in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday during the bloody Civil War, when many Americans seemed to have little for which to be thankful.

The simple word "thanks" is one word that many of us like to hear, including Jesus. In Luke 17: 11-19, Jesus cured 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank him. Jesus seems disappointed when he asks, "Were not 10 cured? Where are the other nine?"

Sharing our blessings

St. James reminds us that like the pilgrims, one of the best ways to be thankful is to share our blessings with the poor. In James 2:15-17 it says, "If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

We can express our thanks for our blessings in deeds by donating to a food pantry, or we can invite a lonely person for Thanksgiving dinner and share our thanks. We can also visit shut-ins, persons in nursing homes, or hospital patients who long for visitors who seldom come and never stay.

We can participate in Thanksgiving Mass. The word "Eucharist" comes from a Greek word meaning thanks. Participating in Thanksgiving Mass or any Mass offers us the graced chance to thank God for our blessings. Each day we can pray, "Lord give me a grateful heart!" Let's do this now!

May our spirit of Thanksgiving continue into Advent, Christmas, and the New Year.

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