Connected by Gratitude
When our son applied for college, his teachers gave a lot of time writing letters of recommendation, talking with him about college choices, and helping him navigate his way through the application process. When graduation arrived, we suggested he send thank you notes to the teachers who had helped him with his applications. He resisted, not wanting to bother his busy teachers with unwanted emails or cards. But of course, once he sent those thank you emails and notes, the response of joy was overwhelming. Teachers were thrilled to hear his college plans. They loved knowing that their letters and conversations made a positive impact. Over the years, those teachers have often reached back to our son to check in or ask him to mentor another senior facing college decisions. Those notes gave the teachers much-needed appreciation, but also a stronger sense of connection with one of their students.
During the pandemic shut down, merchants often thanked customers for simply showing up. Similarly, customers thanked merchants and workers for opening and working to serve us. Smiles and laughter behind masks often followed those words of thanks. We felt connected, despite all the distancing and safeguards. Gratitude connects us in beautiful ways, strengthening relationships and even healing old wounds. Likewise, gratitude deepens our connection with God. Paul knew this to be true when he advised the young church at Ephesus to speak to one another with psalms and spiritual songs, but also to sing and make music to God, always giving thanks to God for everything (Ephesians 5:19). This sense of gratitude and joy can transform a community, particularly in “evil times,” as Paul deemed the times in which he lived. So many who have endured deep tragedies, difficult seasons of life, or “evil times” tell inspirational stories of how gratitude kept them going. Giving thanks for the smallest of gifts, or even for the harsh situations they faced, helped them survive and sometimes even thrive. This is true in any relationship. Saying thank you to an exhausted spouse, offering gratitude to a harried worker, listing blessings during troubled times, or thanking God for helping us endure difficulties often improves our attitude and theirs, bridging divisions with unity and fellowship.
I'm thankful to have survived this long pandemic season, and even thrived a bit. I'm thankful for the medical and scientific community who continue to try to help our human community survive this pandemic, despite the ongoing challenges. I'm thankful most of all that I haven't had to journey alone. Even when we sheltering at home alone, friends still called. My small family played a lot of games and hosted a lot of Zoom calls. And now, as we gradually widen the circle of face-to-face gatherings, I'm thankful for friendships that survived this challenging season, churches and synagogues and mosques that still offered ministry and created community, a planet that still keeps spinning, a sun that keeps rising, and a human community that keeps interacting and figuring out how we might not just survive, but actually thrive together as one people, singing spiritual songs and psalms, giving thanks in all things, and welcoming and including all into this community together. That's my vision. That's my hope. That's my prayer. That's my song of gratitude.