I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all God’s wonderful deeds.
I thank my God every time I remember you.
There is a billboard just north of 80 about a mile west of the Garfield Avenue/Springdale exit. In large red and yellow lettering, it boldly proclaims: Say “Thanks” A Lot. There’s no sponsor or anything else listed on the billboard to suggest who paid for it. Every time I drive past it, I wonder: who spent all that money to send a message without getting any credit for it? Then that thought is gone, and I wonder: who should I thank today?
We all know how good it feels to be thanked. Who doesn’t enjoy being recognized for a job well done or for putting in a special effort? It seems obvious that being thanked would make a person happy.
However, the research says that it’s actually giving thanks, not receiving thanks that makes a person happiest. It might seem counter-intuitive. After all, we all like to be appreciated. The simple fact is that showing appreciation does much more to improve a person’s state of mind. An attitude of gratitude changes things for you. Saying thanks is good for your spirit.
It seems then that the imperative of the billboard is more than a nice idea or handy advice. It’s actually necessary to our mental wellbeing that we say thanks. We can say thanks for little things, like someone holding a door for us, or for a big thing, when someone goes out of their way to help solve a problem. We could even say thanks to someone just for their character, just for being who they are.
There’s more to it than that, though. As Christians, we are not only to recognize and thank those around us, but give thanks to God for them. Why? Well, it’s not because God needs to be cajoled into giving us more great people in our lives. It’s not that God will withhold the good things that we need if we forget to say thanks. Nope. It’s both simpler and more difficult than that.
When we give thanks to God, we are not just expressing gratitude. We are making a claim that God is the one who is actually doing the giving. It’s not just that your neighbor has such a great spirit of generosity that he mowed your lawn when you broke your arm. It’s that God gave him that generous heart and gave you the neighbor you needed. It’s not just that your cashier took care in packing your groceries nicely; it’s that God gave her a sense of responsibility and attention to detail and gave you the cashier you needed. In every instance where we’re grateful for a person, we can also be grateful to God.
When we nurture that attitude of gratitude, we make a difference for our neighbors and for ourselves. We put ourselves in the perspective of recognizing that every single pleasant interaction is a gift from God.
Generous God, thank you. Thank you for all you have done for me. Help me to show my gratitude to you and to the people around me. Amen.