Monday, November 18, 2013

A Perspective of Gratitude

The Thanksgiving season seems to make us all a bit more mindful of what we should be grateful for.  It almost seems as if an attitude of thankfulness comes more easily in the month of November.  And I agree, we should be extremely thankful for all the overflowing blessings that we each experience every day.   (I just think we should work to maintain a grateful attitude every month of the year, not just in November.)

Recently I was reminded by a good friend of how exceedingly blessed I am, despite my struggles to make the budget stretch far enough each week, despite my perceived hardships.  I was reminded that on my leanest days, my "wealth" is enviable to nearly half the world's population.

Seven years ago my friend and his wife flew to Ethiopia to bring home their fourth daughter.  During their short stay there, they witnessed a depth of poverty that few of us in America can understand.

Here is what my friend wrote:
Whenever I think about this time of year, and how thankful we should all be, I wonder what the little boy whom I saw drinking from a muddy puddle along that dirt road is doing right now. I wonder what the mother of 2 who we gave a loaf of bread and 20 burr ($) to has today, or if her sick looking children got the help they so badly needed. I wonder if the children we saw running barefoot through the streets have enough of life's necessities to survive.  I have so much to be thankful for that it would be difficult to list, but we, as Americans forget (and some never know) just how truly Blessed we are. Our brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world are suffering. I don't mean that they have to pay more for health insurance today than they did yesterday, or they can't get good cell service, or they live paycheck to paycheck. I mean they fight everyday to stay alive.
One Sunday afternoon after my family came home from church, we sat around a table adorned with fall decorations and laden with delicious food.  My kids thought we were having an early Thanksgiving until they saw we were eating ham instead of turkey!  We ate until our bellies could hold no more and then all went to find places to snuggle in for a good Sunday afternoon nap.


But you know, we probably had more food at that table that day than some families in other parts of the world see in a week.

I remember a few years back when the earthquake decimated Haiti, I was made keenly aware of how privileged we are here in the U.S.  I was in a grocery store and I just stopped and looked around at the shelves stacked high with food.  And not just one or two shelves, but row after row after row.  I couldn't help but think how the people of Haiti probably couldn't even imagine such a storehouse of food!  And so many things to choose from!  It took my breath away that afternoon.

We are truly blessed by that which we so often take for granted.

My friend goes on in his post to say that the people he met in Ethiopia, "although they seemingly have nothing, thank their merciful God everyday for what they DO have."

My family takes just a moment to give God thanks before each meal.  In fact, my kids know well enough that they are not allowed to take even a single bite until we have said that quick prayer.  But I wonder if our expression of thanks is truly heartfelt or if it has become a matter of habit.

As you sit down to dinner today, take time to be truly grateful for the meal that God has provided for you.  Understand that you are eating a feast compared to what most of the world will sit down to.  And then as Thanksgiving passes and Christmas approaches, look around in your community for people who may not have a bountiful table to sit down to with their family.  Poverty is very real in our own country - in our own city - as well as overseas.

Ask God how YOU can be a blessing for someone who seemingly has little to be thankful for.  In Acts 4:32, the early church is described like this: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had."  Let us purpose to be like those first followers of Jesus and make sure that EVERYONE has plenty to be thankful for.  Not only will we get to share the gifts God has given us, but it will put our own needs in perspective as well.

We might even find that we have more to be thankful for than we first thought.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1)

*Thanks to my friend Chris Cook for allowing me to share his words and perspective.

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