In my native land, Guyana, I was brainwashed as a child to say “thank you” whenever someone did something for me or gave me something. If I forgot those magic words, my mother would remind me:
“What do you say?”
“Thanks, Auntie,” I would whisper.
Giving thanks was reinforced in primary school run by the Roman Catholic nuns: “Never forget to thank God for everything He has given you.” At Sunday Mass, the Catholic priests hammered it in. We not only had to praise God for His wondrous creation, we also had to express our gratitude.
I was unaware of how much saying “thank you” had become a habitual unconscious response until I moved to Brazil and a friend drew it to my attention. While Brazilians may not have the habit of saying “thank you,” their faith in God’s goodness runs deep. Graças a Deus – thanks be to God – escape their lips whenever they receive good news, a favorable outcome, or an answer to prayer.
In the United States, the practice of giving thanks – a tradition of the first English settlers to this land – was raised to the national level by President George Washington in 1789. A special day in the year is set aside for giving thanks to God. This year, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 22nd.
I consider Thanksgiving Day the most celebrated American holiday. Americans put aside their individual pursuits and come together – often traveling great distances – as families, friends, and as a community to give thanks for liberties fought for and won as a nation, for their achievements, for their victories over adversity.
This Thanksgiving, I remember the millions of Americans on the East Coast who face the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. In the face of adversity, we either find our strength and hold on to what really matters in this life or we are crushed with despair.
In dealing with my own adversities, I have learned that in giving thanks for the gifts, blessings or miracles – depending on your viewpoint – makes each day more meaningful and fulfilling. Make a list of all that you are able to enjoy today and you will appreciate what I am saying. Leave nothing out. We take a lot for granted until it is taken from us.
Give thanks each and every day. Live a life of thankfulness.