LISTEN TO: Telly Leung and cast of the Broadway revival of Godspell, singing "All Good Gifts"
One of my most memorable Thanksgiving dinners took place in a dingy church basement. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and not a soul was still. We were chopping collard greens, peeling potatoes, re-stocking the pantry, setting the tables. There were about 40 of us. Some of the group were youth and their pastor from an upstate church. The rest of the group were recovering addicts and alcoholics who were struggling to stay clean during the stress of the holiday. I was an associate pastor, directing this recovery program and other services to the poor and homeless. We were preparing a grand meal for the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. But that day, the day before Thanksgiving, was for us. Before we plowed into our delicious meal of turkey and fixings, we formed a gratitude circle.
One by one, members of the recovery program spoke. Someone was grateful that they were alive, sitting in that circle and not out in the cold. Another person was grateful that she no longer sold her body for crack. Someone was clean and sober for three days, and for the hot meal waiting. Someone, who had no family, was grateful for the family sitting around that circle, a family that God provided. An HIV positive woman gave thanks for finally having a room she could call her own. Nearly everyone spoke of their gratitude to God, for not giving up on them, despite committing actions that were despicable, ungodly, criminal. They thanked God for the church providing them a place to get better, and for the kids who came to be with them. One recovery leader spoke of us needing to pray constantly for "gratitude in attitude." With gratitude we get better. We can heal. We stay connected to our divine source. Without gratitude our spirits shrivel and our souls become as hard as a pit.
The teenagers were for once, silent. They took it all in. They spoke humbly of their gratitude to these men and women who shared their lives so generously and honestly with them. They realized how much they took for granted. They were grateful to be part of a bigger story of grace. We then joined hands and prayed for each other and other sick and suffering people. We prayed for gratitude.
Wherever you may be sitting on Thanksgiving Day, remember you are part of a gratitude circle. Give thanks for each person around your table. Give thanks for the food in front of you. Give thanks for the shower you were able to take. For the breath you just took. For your beating heart. Give thanks for Jesus, who reminds us every day of the Father's unconditional love. Remember what Meister Eckhart, a German theologian, once said: "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice." Happy Thanks - Living Day.
PRAY: "Lord, thank you."