On my flight to Texas last week, I found myself sitting next to a young man studying psychiatry at the University of Arkansas. I asked him what he’d learned that he thought would be the most beneficial for the general public to know about how our minds function. He answered that he would want to tell people about some research regarding happiness. These studies have demonstrated that our level of happiness is not significantly affected by wealth, status, prosperity, or comfort. Rather, our level of happiness shoots through the roof with just one factor: gratefulness.
Since that conversation, I have been thinking about gratefulness a bit more. I have no end of things to be thankful for. Trying to list them would simply make me realize how many I haven’t listed! But stopping to make gratefulness an intentional part of my way of thinking has made life even fuller. Many times over the years I have tried to be more grateful more often, but it started to become a chore rather than an enriching process. But I’ve discovered that this, like everything else, was one more thing to ask God to do for me: make me more grateful. And He has answered that prayer so wonderfully! Sometimes I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and then stop to wonder… why? What am I so happy about? The answer is becoming clearer and clearer. Thank you, Father!
So, with this thankfulness in mind, today was a wonderful day to teach about Thanksgiving (for four hours straight…)! Class was a blast, and I’m so grateful for the four volunteers who were able to make it possible (thanks Valeria, Abby, Kaina, and Clara!). I told them the story of the first thanksgiving, complete with Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and Squanto (it turns out “pilgrim” is an incredible difficult word for Chinese kids to pronounce!). Then we re-told the story to each other, made some paper hats and headbands, and acted out the story again one group at a time! Each time it became simpler and simpler, and it all boiled down to some pilgrims and some Indians helping each other eat food.
Then I told them briefly the tale of the “five kernels of corn,” which says that the Pilgrim’s rations during the first winter came down to just five kernels of corn a day, and yet they were still thankful. We ate five pieces of candy corn, and drank apple cider (which they had many different opinions on!). And then we talked about what we are thankful for. They listed of the usual, important ones: parents, family, teachers, friends, food, water, CCTV (wait, what?), and then wrote them on slips of paper. We made a chain from the papers and all stood in a circle holding the chain, telling each other what we are thankful for. And in that moment, I was overwhelmed with so much thanksgiving. But at the same time, there was a little something missing.
Have you ever thought about the fact that we say “thank you,” not just “thank?” Even “thanks” implies someone to whom thanks is being given. Even in Chinese, it translates the same way. Gratefulness necessitates someone to be grateful to. Some might just say it’s the universe, or ourselves, or something else. But when I look at these dandelion faces, when I see the sun shining through the window, when I watch leaves dancing in the wind, when I have an incredible conversation, or when I wake from a restful sleep, nothing seems more fitting than to deliver my gratitude straight into the hands of a loving Father who smiles as He showers blessings.
I might normally end this blog post by saying “Be more grateful.” But rather, ask your Father to simply open your eyes more to the blessings everywhere. And then just wait in peace for Him to do it. He will do it. Oh yes, He will!