Reclaiming Thanks

Reclaiming the Thanks in Thanksgiving

“One joke about prayer has a man desperately searching for a space in the church parking lot on a wedding day. As best man in the wedding, he can’t be late. ‘God,’ he prays in desperation, ‘I’ll go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life, if you just find me a space!’

Suddenly a spot opens up. ‘Oh, never mind God,’ he says. ‘I just found one.’ ” (James Martin SJ, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything)

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. Gratitude has the ability to change our focus, improve our mood, and enhance our individual and collective senses of well-being. Want a few ideas about how to extend the season of gratitude beyond turkey and cranberries? Try these out:

Before you get out of bed each morning, bring to mind five people you are grateful for, perhaps your spouse, your family, or your friends. Hold each person in your mind briefly, considering one or two concrete things about them that you are deeply grateful for and thank God for their presence in your life. Need help remembering each morning? Put a Post-it on your bathroom mirror. If you forgot to give thanks for five people in your life, climb back in bed and start your day over again.

Email? Take 10 seconds every day to drop a random note to someone to thank them for how they have been present to you in your life. It’s paying it forward, email-style.

At the end of your day, recall three things you are grateful for. They may be obvious moments, like good news or a success at work. They may be less obvious—the look of a gentle snowfall on an evergreen branch, clean kitchen counters when you return home from work, or the savory taste of sandwich made from leftover turkey and cranberries. Stop. Recall three things and thank God.

At the Thanksgiving table: put a small card on each plate that says “I am grateful for…” Then ask each person at the table to fill out the card, remembering what they are especially grateful for. Place the cards in a bowl and ask people to read a gratitude—theirs or someone else’s. Gather the cards at the end of the meal, mark the backs of the cards “2014,” and put them away with your thanksgiving decorations. Next year as you are setting your table, add last year’s notes of thanks to the table. You will remember not only the many blessings in your life but also all the people who have joined your thanksgiving table over the years—the friends and family who have enriched your life and have been a blessing to you and others.

Be a blessing to others. Going out on Black Friday? Send a silent blessing to every frazzled person you encounter, and each sales clerk who got up in the middle of the night to work. Silently send your good intentions, offering something simple: “I wish you well, I wish you peace, I wish you God’s blessings for this day.” Your silent blessing will improve both your days. Even bless the people who elbow you out of line, who have clearly consumed a months’ worth of caffeine and are cutting you off in the parking lot. Give thanks in all things.

If you take time each day to thank God, your mind begins to scan for things to be grateful for. You notice the small blessings, and your mindset changes. The more you thank, the more you notice. It is one of God’s tender mercies for us. Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally published in the Eden Prairie News.

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