In addition to the hours of cooking, schlepping of kids and casseroles, and biting your tongue at an in-law’s political rant, Thanksgiving is our one national day of giving thanks.
That is a lot of pressure.
Paul had another idea. He thought that thanksgiving might spread out across the year. As he told his friends in Thessalonica, “In all circumstance, give thanks...”
At least at Thanksgiving, we can check one of the grateful boxes: went to church, served at a community meal or extended the grace before dinner to take a roll call of our blessings.
But what is thanksgiving like on a normal day?
Paul mentions countless ways to lead a life of gratitude. Actually, there are so many that it is easier to spot when we are not.
If life seems all too unfair, then we are probably not as grateful as we might be. Life is unfair. Good often fails to reap the benefits of the not-so-good, and sometimes things like greed, selfishness or stupidity triumph.
Gratitude is not recognizing what is fair and positive, but our ability to endure and change what is not.
When we blame others for what goes wrong in our lives — big and small — then we still have a ways to go.
If our first reaction is to assign fault to someone else, it is harder to recognize their role in the good that happens.
If we don’t see how the leaves dapple the sunlight on the ground or sense the other’s comfort in a welcome hug, then I’m not as grateful as I could be.
Without attention to the specifics of the moment, we overlook so many reasons for gratitude.
If we fail to consider life and death, particularly our own, we cannot be profoundly grateful.
Without an awareness of the finitude of death and the opportunity of life, we’ll never fully see and never fully embrace all the benisons that abound.
Perhaps the most revealing way in which we know whether we are living a life of gratitude is how often we say thanks to others — from those who share our homes to those who bag our groceries. They are often the mediators of grace, and blessings in themselves.
Paul understood that “in all circumstances, give thanks” wasn’t all that difficult. It was natural, once we acknowledge the abundance of gifts that flow through our lives.
The hard part is admitting we didn’t do it all ourselves.