Getting ready for Thanksgiving Day

thank you word cloud
Am I thankful? Sure, I guess.

The truth is, I usually need to be reminded. It’s not as though gratitude happens easily and naturally for me. With all of the good things in my life, with all of the moments of wonder and amazement, with a dream job and a new grandchild and good health, you’d think I would be thankful pretty much all the time.

But that’s not the way it is.

Much of the time – and I’m certainly not proud of this – I find myself thinking about what I don’t have. I’m not alone in this, but that doesn’t make the situation any better. Comparing myself to other people has turned out to be the number one gratitude killer in my life. I can find myself depressed and resentful in no time at all – just by looking around.

Maybe if I had less, I would be more grateful when something good came my way. On mission trips, when I have worked in situations of terrible poverty, I have often been struck by how much gratitude there is. Invariably the poorest of the poor live with so much more gratitude than I do.

Once, in the Philippines, I was with a church group that was building a house. Across the street I noticed a house much like the one we were building, and stenciled in tall letters across the front of the house were the words, “God is good, all the time.”

After a couple of days of reflecting on what that might mean – in a situation where God’s goodness wasn’t all that easy for me to see – I walked over and knocked on the door. I wanted to meet and maybe learn something from these people.

I was dirty and covered in sweat, but I was invited in anyway. And after introductions, after they offered to share with me just about everything they had, which wasn’t much, I mentioned the words on the front of the house.

They seemed surprised. Wasn’t it obvious? They had a place to live, didn’t they? Lots of people didn’t have that much. So, they were thankful. And it showed. The feeling of gratitude in that house was obvious and deeply moving. I left wondering why I didn’t have those same words stenciled across the front of my house.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s my favorite holiday. One of them, anyway. And I think that what I like about Thanksgiving Day is that people like me who ought to be more grateful than we are will take time to name some of the things we’re grateful for. Before we eat, we’ll go around the dinner table, and each person will mention at least one thing. And then we’ll go around again. And again.

I am thankful. I wish I could be more thankful than I am.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


14 Responses to Getting ready for Thanksgiving Day

  1. Barbara Keith November 27, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I am thankful for my family, friends, home, church and for good health!

    • Doug November 27, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      Hi, Barbara! I assume you’re back in Fort Lauderdale. So sorry we couldn’t say good bye in person. Miss you. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Georgia Hamilton November 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Doug, your blog was a reminder of how much I have and how often I take it for granted!! Thank you. Earlier on Thanksgiving day I had thought we’d go around the table and say a blessing out loud but, of course, in the moment completely forgot it! It’s never too late tho, and I will try to be more mindful. Blessings to all your family.


  2. Linda Strodtman November 27, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Doug, Your words ring very true. Often those of us who have the most are the least appreciative. I am reminded of our two children when they went to Mexico on a First Pres (Ann Arbor) mission trip. It was a trip that I believe had the highest impact of anything in their lives. When they came home and even today over 12 years later they vividly recall their experiences and especially the tremendous outpouring of gratitude and of sharing by the families they stayed with of whatever they had. My son remembers the father of the family he stayed with, sleeping in his car at night so that my son could sleep in the house. He remembers having to limit the amount of water used to shower with and he felt shame that American companies were charging the family monthly for electricity that had many interruptions and poor service. Our daughter remembers making tortillas with the mother of her family and struggling with how to do it and the mother being jovial and so kind. Both children came home with a much greater appreciation for others and especially for others who have less materially but often more spiritually.

    It is indeed a time for us to deeply reflect on what is really important in life. Blessings to you and your family for Thanksgiving and always.

    PS What exactly is your calling at this point? I know you left your Florida preaching position, traveled to Israel but now what??

    • Doug November 27, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Linda, you must be a new reader to the blog. Most of my October posts were given over to the news that I’ll be moving to Zurich, Switzerland, early in the new year. I will be pastor of the International Protestant Church there.

      BTW, it’s terrific to hear from you, and the experience of your children has been repeated over and over again – and as far as I’m concerned is the best reason for going on mission trips.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you!


      • Linda Strodtman November 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

        How wonderful! My only experience with Zurich is landing there on my first international trip back in 1970 on my way to Frankfurt. The airport is lovely but kind of scary–I came in on a 747 (early days of their existence) in between the mountain ranges to this luscious green valley between. I thought our wings were going to touch the sides of the mountain with that huge plane. Never got out of the airport–remember having amenities of facilities to wash up in after the long flight and it was heavenly. Those were the days when Swiss Air existed and the traveling with them was superb and a real treat.

        What a fantastic assignment–Switzerland is one of my favorite countries. I loved the adorable homes and seeing people air their bedding out from their shuttered windows. The glorious flowers in their window boxes and wonderful air and the robust appearance of the people. If you live in a place with flower boxes make sure you tend the flowers well. The people expect renters to tend to the flowers. My sister tells of a friend of hers who ended up in Switzerland for a period of time and she couldn’t keep up with tending the flowers in her window boxes. So she bought some good quality artificial flowers and put them in but when she was finally found about from the locals they were not too happy with her for the deception.

        Hiking in the alps is so much fun, actually hiking anywhere in that region is lovely.

        Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

        PS We have recruited our 13th cohort of residents at First Pres (AA) and I am back on the residency committee. It seems like every cohort is even more brilliant than the previous, so we are so thankful for them.

  3. Lizzy November 27, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    No mention of how thankful you are for your wonderful children? We’ve already been passed over for the grandchildren? (Did I miss the point of your post?…)

    • Doug November 27, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      Uh-oh…well, those things I mentioned were just examples of what I’m thankful for.

  4. bob sadowski November 27, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    so where are you spending Thanksgiving?We will be in Port St. Lucie (pretty exotic)

    • Doug November 27, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Will miss Port St. Lucie next March! I was able to catch some spring training games there (Detroit Tigers). We’re having Thanksgiving in Holland, Michigan, this year. Have a good one!

  5. Bruce chapman November 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Gratitude is the first response of faithful Christian stewards and thus our primary vocation.
    Like Doug, I experience Thanksgiving – in spite of its civic/national overtones – as a sacred trust that evokes deep, personal humility and genuine joy. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed (as North Florida chills beneath clearing blue skies).

  6. Nicole November 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays too! Seeing the family, joining together for the traditional meal and most importantly remembering that we are blessed and have so much to be thankful for.

  7. Clark Ellis November 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    There are just to many things that I am thankful for to write here. God is good to me and I thank him every day. Tonight will be the first time in years that I will go to a Thanksgiving Eve service at church. Hope there is a big turn out due to the cold rain we have had for 2 days.

  8. Mandana Sharifi November 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Happy ThanksGiving Doug…you are both missed…May GOD continue to protect you in your journey, Mandana :0) I am thankful for eyes to see and ears to hear HIM! Mouth to speak the truth and feet and hands to take action in HIS name…Amen!