Giving thanks is all the rage, and that’s a good rage. The entire month of November, my Facebook news feed has seen a constant stream of the many things that people are thankful for–family, friends, freedom, football victories, turkey, canned cranberry sauce. Okay, the last one is a stretch–only my son and I seem to be thankful for that jellied mass of cranberry goodness, but you get the picture.
Words of thanks are important, and need to be spoken or written, but all this thanksgiving has me thinking of the highest form of thanks–the actual conscious enjoyment of that which we are thankful for. We’ve all received a gift at one time or another that we really didn’t want. We probably said thank you anyway then promptly stowed the gift away in an unseen place or maybe even passed it on to someone else who didn’t want it either. Some “gifts” have actually orbited the earth several times in this manner. Obviously, such gifts aren’t really appreciated–we just don’t want to be rude. We appreciate perhaps the thought or the gift-giver, but not the gift itself.
But let someone give you a gift you actually desire–you will speak your thanks but you will also live it. You will stop at nothing to display it or put it to use. You’ll show it to friends and share it with them. You’ll cherish it and brag about it and protect it and if something happens to it your heart will break over it. The importance of the gift will be demonstrated in the passion with which you not only receive it but also with which you utilize it.
Most of us in our better moments intuitively understand that the good in our lives–indeed our lives themselves–are a gift. We didn’t earn them, we just awoke one day and they were there. This is not to diminish good stewardship or the rewards for hard work at all, but only to acknowledge that which precedes and underlies our stewardship and work. Before we ever lifted a finger or processed a thought, someone gave us life and nurtured us in it. And over the course of our living we continue to see our lives sprinkled with people or experiences or things that we didn’t choose but somehow seemed chosen for us. Grace isn’t an abstract principle, but the very nuts and bolts with which our lives our built.
And so, we thank–God, or others, or the universe. Whatever our world view, we just feel an appreciation well up within us and the words of thanks spring out. This is a very good thing. But an even better thing is to fully experience that for which we are thankful. Engage fully the moments of your life as they come. Love the people in it with all the energy you can muster. Use your gifts and talents. Because Thanksgiving isn’t a day in November or a deliciously roasted turkey on the table–at least it isn’t just those things. Thanksgiving is life lived well and in love. That’s a feast for a lifetime.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends…