By Maureen Kalbus
Sheltering at home, more than ever, I am conscious of the many blessings for which I am grateful: Just waking up each morning; having Ralph beside me; being healthy and able to look forward; sharing our home which gives us comfort and joy; absorbing the loveliness of our newly renovated garden; drinking in the beauty of Marin County that surrounds us; glorious sunsets and the recent blue moon; further afield, having warm, loving relatives whose support is only an email or phone call away; my parents, and a generation of grandparents, aunts and uncles from whom I have inherited traits and talents; my Irish heritage which colors the person I am; being able to be transported anywhere in the world that I visited, vividly remembering details of each adventure, by virtue of my memory; relishing the company of good friends, worldwide; the amazing uniqueness of each flower I work with, and the intricacies of every piece of music. Throughout a day, I pause, and absorb any moment of gratitude.
For what /whom are you grateful? How do you show your appreciation?
From childhood, we are brought up to show appreciation and thankfulness, urged to say “Please” and “Thank you.” Society has conditioned people to be thankful, and it becomes an automatic response. Thankfulness is an activity. Gratefulness is a feeling, and can influence your well-being. Robert A. Emmons Ph.D., at the University of California, Davis, tells us that “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects on a person’s life, lowering blood pressure and improving immune functions. Gratefulness is good medicine!” Sharon Huffman says that “The more we experience a sense of gratitude, the more endorphins and the less adrenaline we pump into our systems, thus contributing to longer, healthier lives.”
How do you express your gratitude? At the end of each day, do you count your blessings? Do you keep a Gratitude Diary?
Among famous people who recognized the value of expressing gratitude, Albert Schweizer said, “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Henry Ward Beecher believed “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer surmised that “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Willie Nelson confided ”It was when I started counting my blessings, my life turned around.” David Steindl-Rast said “The root of joy is gratefulness.” Rabbi Harold Kushner shared “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” John F. Kennedy surmised “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
The Bible abounds with individuals who were ecstatically thankful: Sarah, who in old age, gave birth to her son Isaac [Gen. 21]; Hannah, whose prayers for a child were answered [1Sam.2 v 1-10]; David’s exuberance when the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Jerusalem [2 Sam. 6 ] Solomon at the dedication of the Temple [1Kings 8]; Martha, when her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead [John 11]; The blind man healed by Jesus [John 9]; The loan Samaritan leper who went the extra mile to thank Jesus [Luke 17 v 11-17]
We are urged to
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [1 Thess. 5 v 18]
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” [Phil. 4 v 6]
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” [1 Chron. 16 v 34]
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!...Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him…” [Psalm 100]
“Address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Ephes. 5 v 19-20]
As an immigrant, I was introduced to Thanksgiving, and gladly adopted it. I love the thought that on the fourth Thursday in November, everyone across America, regardless of race, color or religion, is joining together around tables. President Abraham Lincoln established the holiday in 1863. The roots can be traced back to 1621, when the Pilgrim Fathers offered a prayer of thanks before their meal with members of the Wampanoag Tribe. There is also the belief that back in 1598, explorer Juan de Onate and Spanish colonists prepared a feast to thank the Jumano Indians who had helped them cross the Rio Grande to safety. Food and thanksgiving are still the focus of the celebration. I have learnt
“Over the river and through the wood,
To grandmothers’ house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow!”
and shared Grandmother’s secret recipe for her Famous Cranberry Bread with my school children. I have greatly appreciated all the homes to which I have been invited for Thanksgiving dinner, over my years in America. The main meal is very similar to Christmas dinner in Ireland, but with different desserts, and the hymns are ones we sang in church, celebrating the harvest each year: “Come ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin…”; “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…”; “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things Hath done, in whom this world rejoices…”
Our church’s Thanksgiving Service is being caringly planned for Wednesday, November 26th, from 6:00 pm [P.C.T.] via Zoom. In a year of great anxieties, we still have a lot for which we are grateful.
“Giving Thanks” by Marlene Sorosky
Around the table.
Young and old.
Warmest wishes for a mindful, joyous Thanksgiving,