Thanksgiving 2011 – Being Grateful for What We Have

By Mark Andrew Beach

I am very grateful for you…Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Here is a thought for our consideration during this Thanksgiving holiday:

So many people are greedily focused on what they don’t have. That is an interesting statement. How can one be without something and be greedy with respect to that which they do not have? Aren’t the greedy people the ones who have too much, hoard what they have, and try to grab more? Perhaps. And any such people, if they exist will be called upon to deal with their brand of greed. But I am not thinking of those people as I write this. I am thinking of the so-called 99% who are occupying Wall Street and Main Streets around the country, demanding that the tax payer pay off their student loans and more-they are the greedy I am thinking about. I am thinking of people who are on the dole at tax payer expense and then say to themselves and others, “Why should I work, when the American tax payer will take care of me?” – these are the greedy I am referring to. I am thinking about the people who are defaulting on their mortgages even a second time, because they know that the taxpayers will be forced to bail them out again – these are the greedy people who are focused on what they don’t have this holiday season, and who clamor for more of what they don’t have.

We should think about these facts and then answer these questions for ourselves:

1) – If we have a roof over our head, food on our table, and clothes on our back, we have it better than 75% of the planet. So why would we complain that our house is not enough? Perhaps if we expressed some sincere gratitude for what we do have in the way of shelter, we might begin to experience a major improvement in our circumstances. Are we hungry, right now – are we really experiencing hunger? How about the members of our families – are they hungry? If not, perhaps we should get down on our knees and thank God that he is watching over us and providing for us. Did not Christ say that not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him noticing and that Solomon the Great was never arrayed better than the flowers of the field, meaning that if we have clothes on our backs, and we are warm, perhaps we should thank that same God for providing these things for us as well.

2) – 50% of all human beings live on less than $2.00 a day. How much money did we make this month? This week? Today? If we made more than $2.00, we made more than 50% of all human beings on this planet. Odds are, if we are earning minimum wage, we are somewhere in the top 5% of the planet. So if we have a ‘good’ job that keeps us in that shelter, puts a turkey on the table, and keeps us and our families clothed and fed, then we might want to give thanks this week. Remember, that the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the pilgrims and Indians were celebrating life. Yes, they were giving thanks for just being alive and not buried with the other half of the pilgrims that did not make it that year.

How big do our ‘problems’ seem now? This reminds me of an experience I had the other day. I do not relate this experience to point out what a great guy I am, because I am not as good as I might look in this story. No, I point out this story to highlight a few lessons I learned that might help you too.

The snow was coming down hard and I was at a gas station filling up the gas tank in my car. I shivered in my shirt sleeves and turned, and was moving toward the front of the store when I saw him. he made eye contact with me and I with him. His smile was infectious and I returned it as he started peddling his bicycle toward me. I knew in that moment he was going to “hit me up” for some money. I was reaching in my pocket for the money I was going to spend in the store as he stopped in front of me. His smile changed to a furrowed brow as he began to tell me his “story”. I handed him the $20.00 bill in my hand and started to move away toward the store.

“You don’t need to tell me your story…” my voice trailed off as he shook his head back and forth.

“I do need to tell you.” he objected. So I stopped and gave him my full attention. For some reason, I realized that part of my giving was a listening ear, not just a few dollars. So I listened. His story was not so different than those I heard before, he was traveling through, his car was impounded, his ID was in the car and he could not get it back, etc. Even though his story was no different, he was different, unique and a son of God, and he deserved the empathy I could give him for a minute, this was more valuable to him than the money I had just put in his hand. I acknowledged his plight, wished him good fortune and moved inside the store feeling pleased with myself that I had helped someone less fortunate than myself.

Once in the store, I paid for my gasoline and as I did so a still small voice prompted me to buy him some food as well. “I can do that,” I responded to the voice and it was silent for a moment, pleased at my positive commitment. I returned outside and found him talking to someone else – I don’t know if they helped him too and it did not matter, because I alone, am accountable for my choices and not someone elses’. I asked the young man if he was hungry and he said was, so I invited him into the store with me to buy something to eat. I smelled the hot dogs and they were inviting, so I asked him if he wanted a hot dog. He looked at them with hunger in his eyes, so I told him to go get whatever he wanted and I would buy some drinks. he disappeared over by the hot dog stand and I picked out two liters of Gatorade for him. I paid for the drinks and the cashier called over to the young man to find out what he purchased so I could pay for it all together. I paid the cashier and he walked around the display stand happily eating a hot dog smothered in ketchup.

As we walked outside I handed him the two litres of drink and admonished him to keep well hydrated if he wanted to stay warm in this weather. We stood outside talking for another moment while the other gentleman moved closer to speak with us as well. My thoughts turned to where he was going to stay for the night. I began to tell him where the homeless shelters were because I figured he could have a warm bed and a meal in the morning if he went there. He explained that he had tried to go to them, but they had turned him away because he did not have his ID (impounded with the car) on him. I was a little ‘put out’ by the shelter’s bureaucracy, but only for a moment as I became more concerned with where he was going to spent the night in a warm place out of this snow storm. At this point, I realized he may really need to get a hotel room, as he had explained. So I asked him, “How much money do you have?”

“$23.00, including the twenty you gave me,” he responded. It was then I knew he was not going to make it without some more help. So I pulled out another twenty and handed it to him.

“This should give you enough to get into an inexpensive motel, here in this part of town, and maybe something for breakfast as well,” I said.

“Bless you,” he replied.

I suggested he check within a few block’s radius from the gas station and he would probably find something. I told him I needed to go because the storm was getting increasingly worse and I had another three hours to go before I would arrive home and I was already looking at getting home well after mid-night. So I left him standing and still talking with the other man.

As I drove away, I wondered if I should have stayed to help him get his room for the night. I wondered if I had given him enough to accomplish that need. The still small voice told me I had done enough and that he would be fine. I offered a prayer on his behalf, realizing that I had done my part. Others would be there for him as he needed them. I then thought of the other gentleman and realized that perhaps I had done what I did to help so that he could now step up and help with his part…who knows?

I then offered a prayer of gratitude. gratitude that my family was home, safe and warm in this storm; asleep with full tummies. I was grateful that I too, was being well cared for, grateful for the law of relativity and my station in life. But in my prayer of gratitude, I was most grateful for the privilege of serving someone else in need. Even now, I think of the young man and pray he will be able to successfully put his life back together and hope my part was sufficient to get him back on his path.

This is the lesson I hope for the “greedy” people I listed above.

Moral: Be grateful for what you have!

 

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