Saying “thank you” seems like such a little thing. But it is often the “little things” that we overlook.
The other day, I saw that someone had put up some “House Rules” on the internet. They were little things like: If you turn it on, turn it off; if you break it, fix it; if you borrow it, return it; if you make a mess, clean it up. Those may seem like little things, but they are important!
Recently, I was reading about the 10 lepers that Jesus healed in Luke 17. Apparently, saying “thank you” must have been a little thing to these lepers, too, because only one returned to thank Jesus. Only one – that is not very impressive.
But it goes to show that people have not changed all that much in 2,000 years. Yes, we have great scientific and technological advances and more information at our fingertips than ever before, but that doesn’t make us more thankful.
I heard the story of a little boy who was given an orange by the grocer. Seeing that, the boy’s mother asked the boy, “What do you say?” The boy handed the orange back to the man and said, “Peel it!” Sadly, that boy is not alone. Naively, many in our society are growing up with a sense of entitlement. That certainly wasn’t the way I was brought up. My mother would have made me say I was sorry for saying something like that. Many of us were raised with the “golden words” – please and thank you. And those words never go out of date.
Indeed, we are fortunate that in this country we do set one day aside each the year as Thanksgiving Day. It’s a great tradition, for sure, and a great reminder that we owe a debt of gratitude to God and to many people, as well.
When the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving in 1621, half their original group had already died. Because of their strong faith in God, they were able to focus on God’s goodness and mercy even in the midst of their difficulties and trials. Being good students of the Bible, perhaps they took a lesson from the early Christian missionaries, Paul and Silas, who unjustly have been put in chains in a jail in Philippi, “prayed and sang praises to God.” (Acts 16:25)
Perhaps they also remembered what that same Paul said in one of his letters: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) Certainly it is a challenge for us to give thanks in tough times, but there is always something to be thankful for – even if it is a little thing.
Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, prayed the following prayer after he had been robbed on the street going home one night: “I thank Thee First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because they took my all, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I that robbed.”
So, obviously, there is always something to be thankful for.
I hope you take the time during this season of Thanksgiving to reflect on the things and people you are thankful for. And, just in case you need a little help in getting started, below is a list of suggestions. Why not take the “Thanksgiving Challenge”? It’s a great way to do as the old hymn says, “Count your blessings.” And, in the process, you will realize that giving thanks is no little thing.
Write down the names of 10 people you are thankful for.
Write down the names of 10 people who passed on who you are thankful for.
Write down 10 physical abilities you are thankful for.
Write down 10 things about nature you are thankful for.
Write down 10 material possessions you are thankful for.
Write down 10 modern-day conveniences you are thankful for.
Write down 10 foods you are thankful for.
Then, when you have made a list, incorporate them into a prayer of thanks to God. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
About the writer: The Rev. John Koedyker is pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.