ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–The vast majority of us were taught from an early age that we should express gratitude upon receiving something from someone. Whether it was a compliment or a gift, we were instructed to say “thank you” to the person that extended the kindness.
As we mature, our sense of gratitude develops and finds expression in one of two forms and is determined by the quality of the gift or kindness we receive.
One form is what I call “polite gratitude.”
Polite gratitude is reserved for those “it’s the thought that counts” gifts. If you have ever received a Chia Pet for Christmas, you probably used the polite form of gratitude. A polite “thank you” is utilized when you are less than thrilled about the gift you have received. You muster a smile as you accept the combination toilet brush/can opener and mouth “thanks,” but inside you feel like you have just been notified that you are being audited by the IRS.
The other form of gratitude that develops in our lives is “profound gratitude.” This expression of thanks occurs when you receive something significant, even life-altering. Words are woefully inadequate when it comes to conveying profound gratitude. You do your best, but your vocabulary seems shallow compared to the tremendous kindness received.
Profound gratitude is what the patient in a cardiac care unit experiences upon hearing a heart transplant soon will take place. The news “we got it all” produces the same response in the cancer patient. And “you’re pregnant” elicits a profound response from the couple once told they would never bear children.
Profound gratitude is expressed via shouts of joy and through silent contemplation. It is conveyed by contagious smiles as well as through silent tears. The practice of profound gratitude is a proactive preventative against taking anything or anyone for granted.
On Thanksgiving Day, our nation will pause for an observance of gratitude. However, for too many it will amount to nothing more than a day full of polite gratitude centered on television and food.
Morning TV is ripe with the pomp of parades which eventually give way to an afternoon feast of football. Sometime around noon, television viewing is interrupted. Someone says grace, “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub,” and everyone eats until they are more stuffed than the turkey.
It takes a conscious and concerted effort to be profoundly grateful. While there is nothing wrong with watching television and enjoying good food on Thanksgiving Day, the original purpose of the holiday was to set aside a day to express gratitude -– profound gratitude — Thanksgiving, find time to express profound gratitude for the blessings God has showered upon you.
If you are reading these words, you are alive! Thank the Lord for the glorious gift of life. I don’t know many people that are in a hurry to experience the alternative.
We live in a country of unparalleled freedom and opportunity. Be grateful to God. On Thanksgiving Day you probably will be surrounded by family and friends. Thank the Lord. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
In the book “When God Weeps,” Joni Eareckson Tada tells of traveling to Accra, the capital of Ghana which is located in western Africa. While there, she spent time among the disabled people who populate the streets of the city. They are homeless because their culture believes their disabilities are a curse.
Tada writes about how she was touched by the joy that radiated from these people that the world had abandoned. When she expressed amazement over the attitudes displayed by the disabled and homeless people, a boy who lived in a box by a trash heap overheard her.
“You westerners are the ones we can’t understand,” he said. “God has given you so much, you have been so blessed … why are so many people in your country so unhappy?”
This Thanksgiving Day take time to count your blessings and be profoundly grateful.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.