Monthly Archives: October 2015

Bare Cupboard, Empty Fridge, Jar of Pennies

We’re taught to say it. We expect to receive it. We write cards to express it. And our prayers should include it – giving thanks. When was the last time you said it? When was the last time you meant it? Saying ‘thank you’ is a polite habit. Being thankful is a way of life. It is a perspective, a revealing picture of character or the lack of it. The thankful person has either learned to appreciate the smallest blessing through observation and practice or through desperation and uncertainty.
My first real memory feeling sincere thanks takes me back to elementary school – St. Michael’s Catholic school, the home of the fighting Irish. Shamrock tee-shirts for the spirited students were on sale, but Mom said there was not enough money to buy one. My disappointment summoned unstoppable tears – not bratty, selfish tears, just sad, heart-broken tears. Later, when Dad got home from work and Mom explained my sorrow, he took my hand and led me to the hallway closet where on the highest shelf was a jar of coins, mostly pennies. We counted enough to buy the shirt and the next day I happily carried baggies of coins to school. I was thankful.
Years later, when my children were small, their father traveled extensively in the only vehicle we owned. Before he would leave on a 10-12 day business trip, I would grocery shop and stock up on everything we might need in his absence. The garage freezer was full. The pantry, packed. The refrigerator, stocked. And I was thankful.
When hard times came and business suffered, when bills stacked up and the cupboards emptied, generous people from church arrived with grocery bags overflowing and Christmas cookies stacked inside plastic snowman containers my boys still remember to this day. And I was thankful.
When routine screening required additional tests and declared healthy results, I was thankful. When my teenagers’ choices delivered stressful circumstances, yet a way of escape, I was thankful. When the marine son returned home, safe and sound from a war zone, I was thankful. When relational heartache found new happiness I was, and still am, thankful.
The level of thankful emotion often depends on our degree of desperation. Near accidents, escaped illness and financial relief certainly move ones heart with more emotion than a polite thank-you to the cashier or bank teller, no matter how sincere.
The secret to living a joyful life lies in the level of thankfulness we acknowledge each day, when there is no desperation, when there is little struggle, when life is moving along without overwhelming uncertainty. Those giving thanks for whatever is good, for life, breath, nature, family, friends, work, purpose and love anchor themselves to a spirit of undeserving attitude, knowing full well relief doesn’t always arrive, healing isn’t always enjoyed, suffering may linger without answers and life’s tragedy still strikes.
The thankful person is not arrogant or presumptuous. She is not critical or envious. She rarely overlooks the good stuff in life because her heart continually searches for it. She finds blessing, discovers the good and appreciates the simple with deliberate intention. She recognizes hidden beauty in people and circumstance, like radar detects its target, and she gratefully intercepts their appearance, pleasure and purpose.
Thankfulness interrupts monotony, rids envy, silences pity and transforms uncertainty into the energy that sparks hope and fuels a blessed and happy life.  For that, I remain thankful.

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