In my family on Thanksgiving during the big meal, we go around the table and everybody states something they are thankful for. We also remember the family members that have gone on to their heavenly reward that used to sit at the table with us. Maybe your family has similar traditions. And generally there is also a Festivus joke or two and the airing of the grievances thrown in for good measure of course!
What I am terrible at, and this is the honest truth, is simply being as thankful in the following weeks after Thanksgiving as I was that day. Don’t get me wrong; I often thank God for the many blessings in my life. I try and thank people when they do things for me. I am thankful for my family members as I watch them grow and try new things in their lives. And of course I am generally thankful for all of my “stuff” that makes me a privileged person of plenty in a world where many people do not even have the basics of life.
Sometimes you may have heard me say that after a mission trip I am thankful. And in principle I am. But I am also angry when I see families living in cardboard houses and see children who don’t have enough food to eat. I need to keep doing something about that and not get stuck in “I’ll do it again next year” mode.
You might also hear me say how thankful I am about the mentors in my life and especially in Youth Ministry. Anything good I know, anything helpful I have ever done, has been because really great leaders have taken time to build me up. But being thankful for my mentors should involve more than just a footnote.
My fear is that somehow as a culture, we tend to be thankful for experiences and view people in a sentimental way. I am not saying that this is wrong. I am saying that if we stop here we are being too shallow.
So here is what I plan to do for the next year: still be thankful. I plan to be as thankful each day as I am on Thanksgiving Day but instead of just announcing what I am thankful for, I plan to do something about it. When I remember to do so, I will Tweet out the #stillthankful message but then I will actually do something. Here is a list of ideas and I hope to add more:
- Call a former mentor and thank them.
- Take a friend out to lunch with no agenda.
- Spend time just being with my family.
- Enjoying the trees and leaves and grass and flowers around my house.
- Use less of my financial resources on me, and use more on those who don’t have the same level of financial resources.
- Thank the people who serve me by name.
- Mentor someone.
- Sing more, dance more, laugh more.
- Take long walks and really see my neighborhood in a new way.
- Listen more when I pray.
Now maybe this all seems logical and doable to you. I am just saying for myself, I am just not very good at being thankful all year long. Maybe this sounds simple to you. But to me in my daily busyness, it does not happen. So I will slow down and be thankful. Please hold me accountable. I need you. We need each other.
#stillthankful for all my fellow youthworkers out there!
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison