“Count your blessings, name them one by one,” advises the old hymn. This time of year we count blessings instead of calories. We gather with family and friends and fill ourselves from the cornucopia of our wealthy land. Some will attend worship services. Others worship at home, taking turns reciting things for which they are thankful.
The Thanksgiving holiday dates back to 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with three days of prayer and feasting. Their first winter in Massachusetts was cruel and only half of the original colonists were still alive. These survivors gave thanks to God that they were alive and worshiping free from persecution as they celebrated the harvest and faced another winter.
In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate a turning point in the American revolution. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863, as the Civil War was ravaging our country. An Army surgeon at Valley Forge said, “Mankind is never truly thankful for the benefits of life until they have experienced the want of them.”
We have celebrated Thanksgiving through good years and bad. During the Great Depression, FDR urged us to “ask guidance in more surely learning the ancient truth that greed and selfishness and striving for undue riches can never bring lasting happiness...”
The Psalm reminds us that, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,” (92:1). We should practice a thankful attitude daily. A heart that is grateful toward God is reflected in appreciation for what other people do for us. Expressions of gratitude towards others cost little but pays big in friendship, happiness and good will.
People want to be appreciated for what they do. A simple thank-you for a small deed is a common courtesy that seems to be lacking today. Showing appreciation to someone is like vitamins to a malnourished self-esteem. Most people prefer appreciation to material reward. They’ll go out of their way to please someone who does not take deeds for granted.
The opposite of thankfulness is self-pity. Instead of counting blessings we complain about slight misfortunes, petty difficulties, jealousies and envy. We poison our minds and sour the people around us. We forget to acknowledge God who gives us all good things (James 1:17).
It has been said that gratitude is a double edged sword. It blesses the one who gives as well as the one who receives. Build someone up today with an expression of gratitude instead of tearing them down with a complaint and watch them grow in appreciation of you. As Aesop said, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”