November is the month of gratitude. It is the time we set aside before our season of self-indulgent excess to give thanks for all of the blessings we have. And, for many of us in the United States, those blessings are abundant. I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be truly grateful. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a big difference between giving thanks and showing gratitude. Thanks is easy. It’s rote. Someone opens a door for you and you say, “Thank you.” You don’t even have to make eye contact. My six year old son thanks me almost every morning for his apple juice in between large gulps. He doesn’t even raise his head from the cup. Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate that he says it. But other than showing me he can be polite, it doesn’t mean much.
I think most of us can come up with a list of things we are thankful for. I’m guessing if I asked you, yours would look a lot like mine. I’m thankful for my husband, my children, my family, my friends. I’m thankful for a job, for benefits, for a house, for food, for transportation. I can say, “Thanks.” The question I’ve been asking myself this year, however, is: Can I be grateful? Can I look at my life and say to God, “You have given me more than enough.” Can I let my gratitude fuel my actions?
The difference between giving thanks and showing gratitude, to me, is in the application of the sentiments. While thanks is something we say, gratitude is something we do. It is an action of appreciation we take when we are truly grateful for the blessings in our lives. It is our cup running over and pouring out love to someone else.
Gratitude is what Hannah showed when she took her most treasured gift, her long prayed for/longed for/agonized for son to the Tabernacle and gave him to God. This child, Samuel, was the only thing Hannah had ever wanted. Can you imagine the joy that filled her soul the day he was born? Can you imagine how cherished he was? How loved he was? She could have said, “Thanks,” and moved on. But instead, she chose to give something out of the fullness of her heart. In gratitude, she handed Samuel over to Eli the priest, to be raised in service to the Lord. She gave back to God what God had so graciously given to her. And what amazing plans God had in store for Samuel!
The question I’m left with as I end this reflection is this: How can I show my gratitude for the blessings in my life? For me, this means taking the time to literally show the people I love that I am grateful for them. It means taking the resources God has given to me and using them to benefit others. It means slowing down and enjoying what I already have. It means taking my “more than enough” and giving it back to God for use in His service.
Gratitude is hard. It puts others first. It goes against the grain of our culture. But I think, if I can get it—if I can show it—then my life is going to be a little more fulfilled.
Blessings and Peace,