Self-Giving or Giving Thanks?

So, what are your favorite thanksgiving memories? When I was growing up, we always had to go to the Hales’ Farm for this auspicious occasion and experience a circus-like atmosphere.  I always marveled at my aunt’s ever-changing hair color (orange was my personal favorite), and the incessant use of cigarettes which caused a plume of smoke to waffle throughout the house.  My grandmother would always express her passive delight that she had to make three different kinds of dressings, one with oysters, one without oysters, and one without celery to satisfy our foodie needs. And like clockwork, my grandfather would chime in with his dismay at the yearly, rising cost of a gallon of oysters.  Then, my older cousin would usually detail his high school exploits bordering on some sort of juvenile delinquent behavior.  Welcome to the Hales Family Thanksgiving! I know that each of us has our own thanksgiving stories and memories. But when it comes right down to it, what is the real significance of the holiday?  Has it become just another day off where we gorge ourselves, fight with family, watch football and prepare for Black Friday shopping, or do we truly see this as an opportunity to be thankful for all of God’s blessings in our lives? As soon as I learned how to write, my parents would have me sit down and pen a thank you note whenever someone did something nice for me.  I’m not sure how much of that happens today, but they were teaching me how to respond positively to someone’s generosity.  And in Holy Scripture we see others sharing their thanks to the living Savior.  In Psalm 107:8-9 the psalmist says, “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the children of man.  For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”  In I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In a world where we are so preoccupied with self-giving, it is easy to take things for granted, isn’t it?  Years ago, my wife and I were visiting family up north when we had the opportunity to stay in a beautiful, winter home.  But as the cold winds blew and the snow piled up, we realized that the home had limited heat, and there were no means to clear the drive.  We just expected that these things would happen when they didn’t.  In life we have so many expectations on how things should be, that we sometimes forget to give thanks for the things that are continually provided by God without fail. Whether it’s the air we breathe, the clothes on our backs, the food in our mouths, the places to live, the employment to pay bills, or the transportation to get us where we need, these are all blessings.  And the greatest blessing of all was Jesus, who was willing to sacrifice his life, so we could experience total forgiveness and life forever in his name. Outside of it being the right thing to do, ultimately, isn’t it more gratifying to be thankful for the kindnesses that others have shown us, rather than only self-focusing on our own needs? Earlier this week I found myself in the automobile repair shop getting the car inspected.  Everything was fine except needing some new windshield wiper blades.  Feeling extremely happy that there was nothing majorly wrong with my vehicle, I went to the cashier to pay the bill.  Then I received the word that someone I knew had paid the invoice in full!  Out of pride I tried to prevent this generosity from happening, but the person wouldn’t allow it.  And I cannot tell you how grateful and humble I am for this act of love. Knowing that we should be upmost grateful concerning these worldly acts of goodwill, maybe they will compel us to be so thankful for everything that God has and continues to do for all of humanity. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is truly about?