I was standing in line at the grocery the other day and watched as the young family in front of me emptied their cart and paid for their groceries. They were having so much fun, enjoying each other’s company, and laughing with each other. But what really struck me was their gratitude. The kids, maybe 8 and 11, were so thankful for the treats their parents had gotten them. The parents were obviously proud of their children and showed their appreciation for their good behavior. It was so refreshing to watch them interact.
As I paid for my own groceries I couldn’t help but think about this easy display of gratitude. This was not a family that bought a lot of extras and the items in their cart were the cheapest version. Clearly they were on a budget, but they were so easily and openly thankful for everything in that cart and for each other that it was inspiring.
As I got in the car to drive home I remembered a thanksgiving 21 years ago. It was the Monday before thanksgiving, and I was heading to the grocery store to get all the supplies for a thanksgiving feast. It was the first thanksgiving back in the United States and I had a list and a plan. As I drove up to the store the outside recess of my mind noticed a man standing near the store with a sign asking for help. But I was on a mission and marched right into the store ready to embark on this first thanksgiving at home. The store was crowded with everyone on the same mission as me and it took more time than I anticipated.
I completed my list and then some. I was waiting in the long line and remembered the gentleman with the sign out front. I thought I would take him over to Burger King and get him a meal when I finished paying for the groceries. That would warm him up and fill his belly. As I walked outside I looked over to where he had been, but he was gone.
Busy, I am always so busy. I was so focused on food for a dinner that day that I missed an opportunity to feed a man’s soul.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
I think that sometimes my pursuit of perfection gets in the way of my gratitude. Every September I make the goal that my house will be perfectly clean and organized. I look for the perfect table decorations on pinterest and dream about how everything will look and smell as everyone arrives. Not one time in my life have I achieved all of that. And every year is absolutely wonderful, maybe not perfect by my September standard, but the day ends up perfect anyway, with so very much to be thankful for.
We are called to give thanks in every circumstance, so if the turkey burns we give thanks. If the dishes don’t all match we say thank you for the dishes we have. When there is no pumpkin pie we are still grateful for the bounty before us. And when Mom is celebrating thanksgiving in heaven, we remain thankful for all the years we were blessed to celebrate with her.
I am even thankful for that man at thanksgiving 21 years ago, because I learned a valuable lesson that day. Today, when I see someone in need, I try to make them the priority and then go on with my plans.