"Make Us Thankful"

Daddy’s hands.

Daddy’s hands.

“Lord, pardon our sins and make us thankful for these and all of our many blessings. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”

I think my daddy said this prayer before every meal he ever had in our Tennessee home. I can still hear the timbre of his voice change as he bowed his head and said, “Let’s say the blessing.” His forearms would rest against the edge of the head of the table, his freshly washed hands and wrists hovering over his empty plate, and he would slightly bow his head and close his eyes and say the prayer that always was, that had no beginning and no end, as far as I am concerned. I wish I had asked him from where he had gotten it. I wish I had kept a recording of it. But now it is only a warm memory. His voice is only an echo I think I can hear, and yet I do.

“Make us thankful for these and all of our many blessings.”

This line has been a refrain for me lately. He still teaches me, even eight years after his death.

Despite constant hard work and as much overtime as my parents could get, my family didn’t have much monetarily as I was growing up. I never really knew it. We had all we needed. We had each other, food on the table, and jobs to do. For all of these things and more, we were thankful, and we openly expressed our gratitude. “Please” and “Thank you” were as ingrained as breathing for us all, and they still are. We didn’t just give these words lip service. We meant them and felt them. We appreciated each other, and we appreciated what God had seen fit to give us. We focused on these things and what we didn’t have was a worry only in so far as it had to be with regard to paying bills.

What I didn’t understand about the wisdom of my father’s prayer was the lens it was placing before my eyes. Gratitude is a powerful force. Maintaining focus on our appreciation for what we do have keeps us from dwelling on what we don’t have.

I’ll say that again.

Maintaining focus on our appreciation for what we do have keeps us from dwelling on what we don’t have.

That’s not to say that gratitude is a cure all or that it should be. Being able to see something we want but don’t have is integral to advancement. A teeny bit of malcontent can be a good thing, but we should be able to look at where we want to go and be thankful for where we are and how far we have come. No matter where we are, blessings abound there, especially if you’re reading this post because if you’re reading it, you have access to the internet and an electronic device, and you have the time to wander through the nebulous space that is the web. I, in turn, am thankful that you have given me these moments of your time.

If you haven’t read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, please consider doing so. She takes a mostly Christian approach to gratitude, but not so much so that non-Christians can’t glean a great deal of wisdom from her book. She eloquently speaks to the benefits of actively practicing thankfulness for the small wonders of life, and reading her book created a shift in my mindset that lingers today, years later. Only recently have I realized that Daddy knew her secret all along.


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