‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’
By Jeanne Hunt
If there were a St. Elvis of Memphis, he would be the patron saint of gratitude. For Elvis was known for his magnanimous response to applause: “Thank you. Thank you very much.” When people imitate the rock-and-roll star, they still say it. He really was grateful.
As we come to the table of plenty to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s time to take a lesson from him. We put out the traditional feast, say a nominal prayer, eat the food and watch a lot of football. And that pretty much does it for gratitude day.
When one of my sons was in college, he showed up at the house on Thanksgiving with a challenge; he was going to say “thank you” 100 times before the day ended. By 4:00 p.m., he had said it only 37 times. Then he told us that we needed to start doing nice things for him for which he could thank us.
Somehow the responsibility for gratitude had shifted. It wasn’t his problem that he couldn’t be grateful; it was our problem because we were not generous enough. Therein lies the deeper issue: Many of us do not see much for which to give thanks. We believe the world owes us and we deserve blessings. We are all guilty of this at times. We are never as grateful for good health as when we have just gotten over the flu.
Gratitude has a way of changing things. People who start noticing their blessings and saying that they are grateful seem to have less trouble with depression. A friend of mine was in India and saw a man without legs crawling into church with a beautiful smile on his face. The man began to offer a prayer of gratitude for the sun, the bowl of rice someone had given him, the mat he was sitting on. Suddenly, my friend realized that the legless man had something that he did not possess: a joy for life.
Sincere gratitude brings us to awareness that everything is gift. God pours out all we have with tremendous love. When we come to know this in our bones, joy simply bubbles up within our souls. Gratitude and joy are intrinsically connected. When we find one, the other comes as a bonus.
Most really happy people seem to say “thank you” with ease while those curmudgeons of the world choke on the words, believing there is simply nothing to appreciate. It is a life stance, a way to face the day, an attitude of gratitude and the secret of contentment.
St. Paul reminds us to be content in all circumstances. The only way I know to do that is to spend time daily looking at the good stuff in our lives. Some days that is more difficult than other days. But I never hit the pillow without thinking of at least three things for which I am grateful that day and telling God so.
In these days before the feast of Thanksgiving, I invite you to give gratitude a shot. You can start noticing what’s going on around you: the sunrise, that first cup of coffee, the guy who lets you change lanes in a traffic jam, the ability to climb stairs without pain or getting winded, finding that recipe for your mom’s pumpkin pie, a flat tire in the driveway instead of on the road, your 3-year-old’s smile, the warmth of your lover’s arms around you, the night sky….
“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.