Some time ago, I decided to make my daily devotional practice take the form of giving thanks. It seemed to be a natural for me, because I had found myself saying quietly the words, "Thanks be to God" after many actions done and observed during the day. Now that I have consciously adopted this practice, I find myself not only saying the words "Thanks be to God" more often, but also stopping to consider more closely the things that have caused me to give thanks.
I now notice that the objects of beauty, like the mums my mother planted by the front walk two years ago, which bloomed especially gloriously this fall, have the power to make me weep. I weep for their ephemeral beauty as I walk by each day. The flowers unfold and turn their heads to the sun, then wrinkle and brown, their petals gently falling away when I'm not looking. Even the early almost-frost of late autumn days spares the mums for a brief spell to reign by the walk and shelter the cottontails.
I weep also for the winter of my mother's life, observing closely as she is surprised by a new awareness of her body's changes. The mums and my mother are intertwined in my experience of home, part of the daily landscape of the place that I wake in. When I read the worldwide news that comes from the legion of newsletters popping up on my computer screen, I am intensely thankful that I live under such a bright blue sky, saying "Thank you" to my mother who cooks for me. I am profoundly conscious of how blessed I am to have enough to eat, more than merely a roof over my head, and my loved ones, equally blessed, living safely nearby.
A natural consequence of regularly saying "Thanks be to God" is that one begins to notice all the people in everyday encounters who are to be thanked for what they do. Saying "Thank you" to the checkout clerk at the store becomes specific, thanking her for the care she has taken to wrap my breakable items carefully. I find myself adding, "I hope you're having a good day, too," in response to her parting "Have a good day."
And the natural consequences grow, because one no longer stops at just noticing what people do for which one is thankful, but one begins to notice who people are. The overnight package delivery driver who comes to the door is someone I now make a point of looking in the eye and acknowledging, as I sign the receipt and say, "Thank you. What a glorious day to be out and about!" I say a silent prayer for a safe day on the road as the driver leaves my door.
Practicing gratefulness has calmed me in ways that I did not anticipate. That calmness has been expressed as purposefulness, an intentionality to do the things that are important, such as spending time with friends and family. I realized several years ago that I have many friends, but that I was not a very good friend. I lacked intentionality in nurturing my friendships. I now invite my mother to the movies, cook dinner for my husband's friends, go to the opera with new friends, and have coffee with long-term friends, activities which used to be sacrificed to work and other self-centered priorities.
These expressions of purposefulness could be viewed as instances of right relationship with others, ultimately a gesture of peacemaking in the world. From thankfulness to peacemaking, yes, it can happen, because giving thanks leads to consciousness of what others do and of who others are, which leads to creating brief as well as longer-term person-to-person interactions, which is how relationships begin, and which is where peace starts.
So, dear ones, have a Happy Thanksgiving, forget not the needy, and let not the hope of the poor be taken away. Thanks be to God, now and always, forever and ever. Amen.