Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 27, 2011


Continue to be thankful long after the turkey and dressing are gone


Thanksgiving Day comes once a year, always on a Thursday. It is one of our most enjoyable holidays. Football games are on television and in the neighborhood. The boys go deer hunting. Tables are laden with good food – pumpkin, pecan and potato pies – and even some ambrosia and coconut cake. And we must admit: most of us eat too much!

We sit around and share our stories. The old folks keep telling the ones they have told many times before. The young folks groan from having to hear those stories again and again.

But after the turkey and dressing are gone, we still need to remain thankful – and not for a day but the rest of our lives. Few things are more beautiful than an attitude of gratitude. Most of us enjoy being around a person with a thankful spirit. On the other hand, we would rather sit in the same room with a miserable person who sees no reason to give thanks for anything.  

            Ingratitude is an ugly thing. It is especially disgusting in a child. Shakespeare’s King Lear speaks for us all when he laments, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” A thankless child can break your heart no matter the age of the child.

Wise parents teach their children to be thankful. Our children grew up knowing they would incur the wrath of their mother if they neglected to use “the magic words” – Please and Thank you. To this day it disgusts me to observe a child fail to say thank you for even the least little thing done for them by others. It costs nothing to say thank you and saying it can often bring a bit of joy to the person receiving the gratitude. 

            When we do things for others we enjoy having them say thank you. When we hear nothing in response to our good deeds, we feel disappointed, short-changed or even angry. During those moments we do well to remember that we must not cease doing good even though we are hurt by ingratitude. Doing good has its own rewards – it is the right thing to do even if our kindness is not appreciated. But admittedly it is not easy to continue offering kindness to people who never say thank you.

            In one of his letters Saint Paul admonishes us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” That is a tall order. I am glad he did not say give thanks “for” all circumstances. There are situations for which none of us could give thanks. But we can keep a thankful spirit “in” even the worst circumstances.

We can give thanks that our predicament is not worse. We can give thanks that God is with us for he has promised never to forsake us even in the darkest valley. We can give thanks when there is hope for recovery or restoration. We can give thanks that our friends have not forsaken us. We can give thanks that though the night is terribly dark, the morning light will come and a new day will dawn.

One of the advantages of age is that you can look back and see the hand of God at work in your life. When I was young that was difficult to do. Now in retrospect I can see God not only with me in tough circumstances but using those circumstances to bless me in ways I could not understand when I was in the fire. Recognizing that gives me faith to give thanks now in new circumstances even when I do not understand what is going on.

Don Moen wrote a little song that has found a place in my heart. He invites us to “give thanks with a grateful heart.” Moen says we can do that “because of what the Lord has done for us.” Most of us have been blessed beyond our deserving. I know I have.

When I reflect on all the Lord has done for me, I feel compelled to praise him. I have discovered that it is impossible to praise God and complain at the same time. Perhaps that is the secret: as long as I am giving thanks, ingratitude cannot wrap its ugly tentacles around my heart and make me a thankless child.

Thanksgiving Day is past. The need for giving thanks remains – as long as we have breath. + + +