(I decided to post something a day early, because I wanted to share this in time for Thanksgiving Day.)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not about the feast, although I adore turkey, stuffing, and all the accompaniments. It’s not about the football, even though I enjoy a good game every so often.It’s not even about getting together with loved ones, although I treasure any time I spend with our daughters and their families.
Rather, I treasure the time we take, as a nation, to be thankful. Especially this year, with so much meanness in the air, we desperately need some time to reflect and be grateful for all the good things and wonderful people we have in our lives.
After spending six weeks this fall overseas, I have new eyes for this incredible place we live. It helps that we started in Australia, which is much like the U.S., and ended in India, which is undeniably different in so many ways.
At the end, we walked into our home after more than three days of constant travel and realized that we live in a palace. The air is clean, the water drinkable (ours tastes pretty good, too) and I have hot water whenever I want it. The market is overflowing with an enormous variety of food—I particularly have a renewed appreciation for fresh produce!—and it’s affordable, for the most part.
I have a washer and dryer. (I thought I was losing weight, then realized that my jeans hadn’t been in a dryer since we left home, and they were merely stretched out. Rats.) We have toilet paper, and it’s thick enough not to shred the moment it gets a bit damp—and I can flush the toilet with a simple flip of a handle.
Even better, we couldn’t wait to get together with the friends and family we’ve missed.
As much as I’m appreciating our standard of living, there’s a bigger lesson I learned from this and other trips I’ve taken. You can be thankful no matter where or how you live!
On one of our first international trips together, Pete and I found ourselves in a tiny fishing village on the island of Cebu, in the Philippines. The people lived in bamboo houses with thatched roofs. The tiny store in town offered about a dozen items—one bar of soap, a razor, a cup or two. The men spent their days catching fish, to be eaten at dinner that night. We were there for a week, and quickly realized that these were among the happiest people we’d ever met. They had so few physical belongings, but they were rich in family and friendship.
I’m not saying that being in poverty is a good thing. And truly, this village wasn’t in poverty. The tourists who came to go scuba diving brought enough income that everyone was well-fed and healthy. But what I carry with me, almost 30 years later, are the warm smiles and generous hospitality.
I recently saw a meme on Facebook that captured my attention:
Paul summed it the same idea up in Philippians 4:11-12:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Being thankful in every circumstance brings us joy, but it isn’t just for us. As believers, our primary purpose is to bring God glory. We do this by loving others, demonstrating his character. We do it through praise, worship, and obedience. And, as King David understood, we bring God glory through our grateful hearts:
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 69:30)
This year, as you prepare that special dinner, remember to also prepare your heart—by stuffing it with thanksgiving.