Greg's Weekly Word: "gratitude"
Thanksgiving. Thankful. Gratitude.
We'll hear a lot of these words over the next eight days. And then, on November 27th, not as much. Which is why we need to develop an "attitude of gratitude" (which Pastor Christine Kellett writes about here). But I don't think an attitude is enough...
When I first came to Augusta Heights, Ms. Mickey, Mr. Ted, and Ms. Wilma (who just passed away a couple of weeks ago) were the treasurers. That meant two of them showed up every Monday morning to sit in the conference room, count the offerings, record everything, and then take the deposit to the bank. One day, in one of my first few months as the pastor, I was walking down the hall on a Monday morning and I poked my head in the conference room door and said, "Thank y'all so much for doing this every week." Ms. Wilma stopped counting immediately, and said, "Do you know that in the years and years of doing this, that's the first time a pastor has ever said 'Thank you'? That means so much me."
Even though she never expected or demanded thanks, that simple expression of gratitude meant the world to Ms. Wilma. And it reminded me the importance of saying "Thank you," something we (i.e. I) too often forget. Because we all know the feeling when - even though we're not hoping for or counting on it - someone says "Thanks." It lightens our step and warms our heart. It makes it a little easier to do a little more.
And that's where I hope our expressions of gratitude will ultimately take us: beyond an attitude, past an expression, all the way to action. When Jesus healed ten lepers, one came back to him and fell down and thanked him. And Jesus told that one, "Get up and go on your way." Almost as if to say, “Carry this gratitude with you. Let it shape who you are and what you do.” (Luke 17:11-19)
So, if we’re thankful for our family, maybe we can learn about and support organizations that care for children who have lost their parents, or whose parents are imprisoned. Or become a foster parent. Or invite someone who’s lost their family to be a part of your celebrations (once we’re able to do that again).
If we’re thankful for our well-being - for our health and safety, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs - gather hygiene and first-aid supplies for our homeless brothers and sisters. Or advocate for better access to quality healthcare for all, or affordable housing in our community.
If we’re thankful for our education and the opportunities it has provided us, volunteer with a local school. Or help adults get their GED through United Ministries. Or set up a scholarship at a college for under-resourced students if you’re able.
If you’re thankful that you don’t have to worry about being killed when you are going for a jog or stopped by the police…
if you are grateful that you don’t get suspicious looks in a store or an airport because your skin isn’t black or brown…
if you have gratitude because you don’t have to have “the talk” with your children about how to get home alive…
if you’ve never had to worry about being kicked out of your home or losing your job or having your rights legislated because of how you look or who you love or who you are…
then be an active ally for those in the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community. Learn. Listen. Speak up. Act.
And if you’re thankful for your community of faith, invest in it. Be involved. Show up. Give. Serve. Invite and welcome others.
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the word gratitude has the same ancient root as the word grace. May we always be grateful for the grace we receive, and may we never forget that grace is meant to be shared.