On Being Thankful

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 01, 2014

“Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
William Arthur Ward

When our children were small we often played the “I’m thankful for … ” game as we traveled in the car. We encouraged them to finish the sentence “I’m thankful for … ” anything and everything they could think of for which they were thankful. Evie and I always loved hearing their view on their world as they genuinely expressed from their little hearts their reasons for being grateful.

In “Giving Thanks: Stories of Gratitude,” John Pattison shares these stories. He begins with his own. “Last winter, Portland, Oregon, was crippled for a week by snowstorms it didn’t have the money, equipment or personnel to deal with. In the summer, the city came within a degree of breaking its all-time high temperature. I gave thanks on those rare days when it was 75 degrees, rainy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, with the wind always at my back. It is only in hindsight that I see that every day is a gift.”  

Steve Simpson said, “Thank God for my limitations. Not limitations in general, just mine. I tend toward grandiosity and self-importance, so thank God my imperfections show up everywhere. For example, my writing is ok, but I’m disabled when it comes to drawing. I have trouble with things like circles and straight lines. If I could write and draw, I’d be an insufferable ar-teest. I’d run around pontificating about creativity and art all the time.’

Wisely, Simpson ends his story of gratitude by saying, “So yeah, I’m thankful for the many gifts God has given me. I’m just more thankful for the limitations that keep me from spoiling them.”

According to Dan Gibson, “I’m not entirely sure what being thankful means all the time, but like most people, I’m thankful for any number of things each day — that Coke Zero has more caffeine than most full calorie sodas, that I can watch daily “Soul Train” on DirectTV, the Sparklemotion soccer team — but as Thanksgiving comes up every year, I’d be stupid that I didn’t count my lucky stars thinking of my wife.”  

To demonstrate his gratitude for his wife he says, “Tonight, I’m heading home from work and taking the recyclables out right away before being asked and trying to replace the garbage disposal without grumbling. It’s not much, but it’s a start, right?”

Sarah Thebarge once attended a women’s business etiquette seminar where they were talking about the differences between gender communication. The speaker said that women say “thank you” nearly twice as often as men. But rather than commending women, Thebarge said, “we were chastised” because women often say it to fill in an awkward silence or a conversational transition and rarely because they were genuinely thankful. 

Later, she realized she does that also but as she pondered her use of “thank you,” she determined to use it often but always to make sure she used it as it was intended. 

If I were to finish “I’m thankful for … ” my list would probably be as long as yours. I would start with Evie and our family and end up with past and present friends who have found special places in our hearts forever. 

I could walk through a day and be thankful for shoes, and coffee with French vanilla cream, and fresh air to breathe, and computers and colors and back porches and sounds and grass and airplanes and anesthesia and ice cream and flowers and thumbs. I could never stop because I ran out of things to list but only because I turned my attention to something else. 

Gratitude is a matter of the heart but it is also a matter of the mouth. As William Faulkner said, “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity; it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”    

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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