Although most shopping malls are already decorated for the holiday season, which traditionally begins Thanksgiving weekend, finding something for which to be thankful is a task for many.

The death of my eldest brother last week has cast a pale of sadness on the family. Recovering from the recent hurricanes and floods will carry a greater priority this year than time for celebration and thanksgiving.

The war in Iraq and the increasing loss of life and mounting lifelong injuries is a threat to happiness and joy for thousands. Unemployment continues to hit at the heart of health and happiness as the family income is gone or minimal.

Perennial issues of hatred, bitterness, anger, loneliness, crime, suicide, divorce, child abuse, drug and alcohol addiction are but a few of the manifestations of man’s inhumanity to man.

Under such circumstances, finding something for which to be thankful may be a task, but it is worth it.

A story in the Sunday School Times many years ago tells about a joyful woman who was asked the source of her happiness. She attributed it to her “Thanks Book.” She kept a simple journal in which she made entries such as “Saw a beautiful sunset.” “Talked to an inquisitive child.” “Received a compliment from my spouse.” “Enjoyed a beautiful flower.” “Watched dancing flames in the fireplace.” “Gave a missionary offering.” “Thanked God for a good doctor.” “Had enough to eat.”

A rather poor woman, aged and ill, was asked if she had anything for which to be thankful. Looking at the shabby walls of her room, she answered: “For the sunshine through the cracks.”

Finding a reason to give thanks can add the dimension of caring to sharing. For example, one of the more perplexing aspects of the holiday season is our gift list. Sharing captures the true spirit of the holidays, but too often the gift, rather than the giver, becomes the measure of worth.

Finding a reason to give thanks for the giver, as well as the gift, can make sharing a truly caring experience.

Finding a reason to give thanks can change frantic days into precious hours. As the clock winds down during the holiday season, the pace of activity intensifies. Finding something to be thankful for each day keeps the true spirit of the holidays in proper perspective.

Finding a reason to give thanks, even in death, can provide comfort. I have discovered this often in preparing eulogies, especially for family members.

Of my late father, I wrote: “Be thankful, he felt, in everything. For example, today he would be thankful for all of you who are here, for the flowers, for the sun or the rain, whichever. He was thankful for his home, his family, his job, his church, his health–even after it began to fail. His head never touched a pillow until he had offered thanks to God. His stomach never savored a morsel of food before he had offered thanks to God. He firmly believed that in everything, give thanks.”

At the internment of my brother last week, I was reminded of a reason to give thanks daily. At the command of a military officer, a 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of taps, focused those in attendance on the American flag-draped coffin before us.

Memories of a half-century ago flooded my thoughts. It was a predawn Sunday morning in 1951 when a young bride, the father and mother and siblings of the young soldier said goodbye to him as he left to report to duty in Inchon, South Korea. He took to the grave injuries sustained in that war. I could not help but be thankful for what he and millions of others in the armed forces through the years have given protecting the freedoms I so richly enjoy.

Finding a reason to give thanks during this holiday season is worth it. Giving thanks can provide comfort in a time of sorrow, transform hectic days into precious moments and add the dimension of caring to sharing which multiplies the worth of both.

So, during this holiday season, salute a serviceman, thank a policeman, greet a stranger, listen to a child, visit someone in the nursing home, send a note of thanks to a teacher, your minister, tell your spouse and children you love them.

Reasons to give thanks are all around us. “Fill your minds with those things that are good and deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable … and the God who gives us peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8) Happy Holidays!

Jack Brymer of Birmingham, Ala., recently retired from Samford University after a 30-year career as a Baptist journalist. This column appeared previously in the Anniston Star.

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