Getting ready for Thanksgiving Day

thank you word cloud

(I am re-posting this from last year, mainly for my friends in the U.S. It still reflects my feelings about gratitude – namely, that I could be more grateful than I often am. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!)

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.

6 Responses to Getting ready for Thanksgiving Day

  1. Laurie November 26, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. You will sure be missed this Sunday when we do the Hanging of the Greens..miss you lots…Make it a good one!

    • Doug November 27, 2014 at 4:23 am #

      I hope it’s a wonderful service … as always. Will miss being in worship with all of you.

  2. Mandana Sharifi November 26, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Happy Thanks Giving Doug…wishing you and your family best of health….

    Mandana :0)

    • Doug November 27, 2014 at 4:24 am #

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mandana!

  3. Darlene Kostrub November 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Doug, a very special person whom you may have known, Melissa Aiello, CEO of Junior Achievement in Broward, was killed last Friday morning while jogging…struck by a passing vehicle. She was my daughter’s boss and just 60. We have all cried buckets over this. So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for pretty much everything with new eyes. Joy to your family. We miss you!

    • Doug November 27, 2014 at 4:26 am #

      Hi, Darlene. I did not know Melissa, but the news is obviously sad and distressing all the same. No time of year is right for this, but this time of year makes the loss especially bad.