The Gift of True Thanksgiving

Shannon Gammon Articles, Carla Aday

Last Saturday I went on the coldest train ride of my life. Our grandson Jacob, who has autism and is non-verbal, adores trains. So to celebrate his 8th birthday, his mom and dad organized a train ride. We never imagined that there would be no heat or that it would be 22 degrees. But my lingering memory of that day will not be how we shivered. It will be of Jacob beaming with delight as the locomotive went click-clacking down the tracks with the soothing rhythm that seems to simultaneously comfort and intrigue him. As I stood watching a mesmerized Jacob staring at that train while grasping his Mom and Dad’s hands, I felt gratitude arise for their deep love for him.

Why is it that some experiences evoke spontaneous thanksgiving within us while other gifts land upon us without notice? We all experience moments when we join the Psalmist who exclaims to God “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you (Psalm 5:7). Sometimes thanksgiving arises unbidden and we are moved to express profound gratitude. While other times we remain blind to the bounty of our own lives: family members who generously sacrifice for one another, many kinds of pie on the buffet, living freely in a democracy, and big belly laughs shared with friends. What prompts us to really feel grateful rather than simply, rotely, reciting thanks?

Last Sunday, Rev Rodney Williams, pastor at our sister church Swope Parkway preached at our joint service with Swope at 11:00am. As I settled into the front pew to listen for the word, I began to hear “That’s right” and “mmhuh” coming from the congregation behind me. I could not see but I could feel the energy rising in the sanctuary. Then as his voice crescendoed so did the congregation’s unison claps and “Amens”. Something stirred not just within me but between us. And I realized I was weeping tears of joy.

Gratitude comes as a gift. It cannot be forced. We can be taught to say thank you. But true thanksgiving is discovered by some process more mysterious, more miraculous. We sense that we have been given something from God’s divine hand.  And with awe and wonder, we say “Thank you.”

Grace and Peace,

Carla