During November the COMPASS Blog is sharing reflections about Thanksgiving and digging more deeply into why we give thanks. Today we welcome back regular contributor Nicole Brennan who ponders the question for herself in sharing some pictures of what and who she is thankful for and in writing that “A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart.”
I had no idea that when Timothy posed the question, “Why do you give thanks?” it would be such a difficult question to answer. It feels like the answer is “Because… I do.” It feels natural and right to say “thank you.” I don’t think it’s just my Midwest upbringing or my Christian faith. I hope it’s instinctive in humanity to be grateful. As I reflect on it more, I guess it isn’t a “natural” trait to be grateful since it seems we have to learn it.
As a young child, I remember learning about being grateful. Like any good Christian kid of the 90s/2000s, I have watched nearly every VeggieTales episode repeatedly. One of my favorites is “Madame Blueberry.” I can sing you all the songs, including the “Love Songs with Mr. Lunt.” (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, watch it now!) It perfectly encapsulates the reason we are not grateful (materialism), the reasons we should be (God’s goodness), and how to achieve it (being grateful)- by singing the “Thankfulness Song”:
I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground,
For His love that’s all around,
That’s why I say thanks every day!
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I’m glad for what I have,
That’s an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
‘Cause He listens to my prayers,
That’s why I say thanks every day!
As an adult, I’m still learning about gratitude. Last year at this time, I wrote about the importance of gratitude and four simple ways to practice it. I’m very blessed to have a job in a place that emphasizes stewardship and generosity. In the course of my work there, I have read several books about gratitude, generosity, materialism, and contentment.
I recently read a book, “Enough,” that I want to draw your attention to. One particular chapter stuck with me- about how rich I am. I haven’t always considered myself “rich,” especially when I was living on donations during my year of service, but I always had enough. And by having “enough,” I was rich. The beauty of simplicity first got ahold of me then, and it’s a value I constantly strive for, but haven’t quite mastered. From all I’ve read and witnessed—especially this time of year—many people realize they are rich, too. But we all just forget in the haze of more stuff. There is an overwhelming craving in our society (perhaps humanity) to “need more.” We need more clothes, toys, affection, attention, and approval. But we already have more than enough. We are inundated with stuff and rich with blessings.
This brings me back to the reason why I give thanks- because I appreciate the numerous blessings of God. We are blessed beyond riches to be alive, to be able to think, and to have a functioning body. There are numerous immaterial reasons to be thankful: my family, my friends, the people I encounter, and the places I get to see. Regardless of my material wealth, I am always grateful that I have enough.
About the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoying live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.
This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.