This is the first article in a series expressing gratitude
Someone has said that if you want to find gratitude, look for it in the dictionary. I would imagine all of us, if we were honest, would confess that we complain, and gripe more than we express gratitude.
There is a marvelous insight into this human trait found in a story about Jesus while he was on a journey from one town to the next. He encounters 10 men who were afflicted with the terribly damaging and painful disease of leprosy. The leprous men call to Jesus to have mercy on them. He tells them to go to the priest (only the priest upon examination could pronounce someone clean of this malady). While they are going to the priest, they become miraculously healed of their dreadful condition. One of them upon realizing that he was healed turned around and went back to Jesus, fell at his feet and gave thanks to Him.
The revealing lesson of this encounter is found in Jesus’ response. He asks, “were there not 10 cleansed? But where are the nine?” Some might say to this account that all of them were amazed and happy, but the point is that gratitude recognizes that someone or source has brought a benefit or blessing to your life. In other words, recognize the good things and express your gratitude.
An old hymn encourages us to “count your many blessings, name them one by one”. All of us, no matter our condition, can name them if we really think about it. Once you start, it may surprise you how many there really are. Perhaps it is because of my age and I have some dear friends who are very sick, that I want to express my gratitude for health.
My friend Billy was diagnosed with a lung disease just recently and for the last six weeks has struggled for every breath he takes. He is so weak he cannot get up out of the bed without an oxygen bottle and even then, can only go a few feet before having to sit down. When was the last time you were grateful for each breath you take? We are strong creatures in some ways, but very fragile in others. You are only alive until you take the next breath! I am thankful for the breath I just took and the next one, and the next one, and the next one.
Do you know the name of Dr. Robert H. Goetz? He was a surgeon. On May 2, 1960 he performed the first clinical coronary artery bypass operation. Just think, before 1960, if you had clogged arteries, it was just a matter of time before you would die and very little could be done. Now, it feels that every other person you talk to has had bypass surgery or they know someone who has. How grateful are you to live in an age where this life saving operation is possible and there are skilled surgeons to perform it?
Today I turned a knob at my sink, water came out, I filled my coffee pot with it and then drank the coffee. Clean water, and sanitation are everywhere I go and I think nothing of it. Without those two things, our health would be dramatically different for the worse. Are you thankful for that glass of water and for an outhouse that is in-house?
There is a story told of a visit in the 1960s when President Nikita Khrushchev (leader of the former USSR) and his wife visited the United States. They were given a grand tour of famous landmarks, industries, and even Disneyland to impress the dignitaries. It is said that on one such tour they were shown a typical grocery store. Aisles and aisles of food of every kind and plenty of it. Those that witnessed the scene said that upon seeing the abundance of food and the variety which are readily available to every American, Mrs. Khrushchev began to cry. In her experience nothing she had seen matched what was available to every person regardless of race, class or status. When I go into a grocery store, I can buy anything I want and as much as I want. So can you. At no time in human history have a people had so much to eat and available everywhere. Our health is directly affected by the ability to nourish it, how grateful are you for that buggy of groceries?
An attitude of gratitude is good for your overall well-being. Grumbling and dissatisfied because something went wrong or you didn’t get what you want will affect your spirit and manifest itself into your lack of contentment and satisfaction in life. I challenge you to pause this Thanksgiving season and spend some time “counting your many blessings, name them one by one.”