When I was a pastor at a Quaker meeting in Muncie, Indiana, I met every Thursday with the preschoolers attending our school. One Thursday before Thanksgiving, I asked them if they knew what holiday was coming up. I thought they would say Christmas since television commercials had begun suggesting gifts and the local mall was brimming with decorations. There was no hesitation, however, as together they shouted out “Thanksgiving.”
That was a nice surprise.
Then I asked them if they knew what Thanksgiving was about. “It’s about giving thanks,” they said. “Thanks to God for the stuff we have.” Again, I was pleased—both with their innate sense of a time for giving thanks and with the good job their teachers had done in educating them about this holiday. Next, I asked what they were thankful for. I was ready for a list of favorite toys and games. Again, I was surprised.
“I have a dog,” added another one.
“Not me, I have a cat,” chimed another kid.
Not one of those kids first thought thankfulness had anything to do with possessions. They all had to do with relationships and home.
I think we would do well to remember how blessed we are with these things without money and without price. The kids were grateful for the blessings of simple pleasures. Maybe they really aren’t so simple after all.
Not if we allow them to give us life, that is.
We can find these small things life-giving regardless of our age or station in life. And when we find them as such, we can extend them as life-giving gifts to others. We simply need to offer them up, in all their ordinariness, to God’s touch with the prayer that they will be a blessing to those we meet. We need to know that the little acts of random kindness and love that we share with our fellow travelers on life’s highway enliven them as well as us. Easing the way for one another is one of the most life-giving things we can do. As Iris DeMent sings,
But I gave joy to my mother
And I made my lover smile.
And I can give comfort to my friends when they’re hurting.
I can make it seem better, I can make it seem better
I can make it seem better for a while.
The things she sings of are the things that give our lives value. Purpose. Gusto. We find our calling in bringing people joy, making the ones we love smile, and giving comfort to our friends and making it seem better for a while.
Whichever of those we are called to, it will be enough. It will bring life—and life in all its fulfillment and glory.