Monday, May 04, 2009

The Daily Disciplines: Practicing Thankfulness

Thankfulness is a state of being that we should be always living in. After all, we are called to "give thanks in all circumstances" - whether we feel like it or not (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As a whole, I've observed that our culture tends to be rather un-thankful most of the time. We think that it's all about ourselves, instead of taking time to thank those who do so much to contribute to our life. It is so easy to simply take things and others for granted instead of being thankful.

Being thankful takes your focus off of yourself and puts it on others. When you are thankful, your entire outlook on life is better, and you are left feeling more joyful and encouraged. Often, thankfulness can be infectious; when you are thankful and consequently more joyful, often other people will be encouraged as they see you uplifted! Thanking others is also an amazing and fairly easy way to bless others - and yourself at the same time!

Thankful to God
When is the last time you thanked God for life and breath? "Every good and perfect gift comes from above" (James 1:17). How often do you stop and thank God for all of the many blessings - big and small - that allow you to live each day? How often do you thank Him for His grace and strength and gift of salvation?

We should be offering up a constant thank-offering to the Lord with our lives. How do we do this? By delighting in and praising the Lord for the things He's done. I try to live focused on the Lord and thankful for what He's done. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, I thank Him for life and breath and grace to live another day. As I go throughout the day and see glimpses of His beauty and His hand at work, I thank Him. Sometimes it's as little as a "Thank You, Father!" under my breath, sometimes it's a longer prayer extolling God's many virtues and mighty works. The important thing is that I live constantly thankful and in awe of Who our Savior is and what He has done!

Thankful to Family
The people that we undervalue and take for granted the most are probably our family. When you live with them day after day, it is so easy to fall into routine and expect them to do things instead of thanking them for it. How often do you thank your parents for giving you life, a house to live in, and food to eat? How often do you thank your father for working to provide for the family? How often do you thank your mother for managing the house and training you children? Do you thank your brothers and sisters for their small acts of kindness? Do you thank each member of the family for the chores that they do, or do you just expect that they do them and reprimand them if they forget?

Purpose to thank your family throughout the day for who they are and what they do. Thank them for things big and small. It's important that you do it sincerely as well. It doesn't have to be big and elaborate, but a sincere "thank you" with a smile and hug can do wonders. A note of thanks and encouragement left in their room can also do a lot to brighten their day! If you're far from your family, a phone call, email, or card in the mail can mean a lot. All of us - myself definitely included! - have father to go in thanking our families.

Thankful to Friends
How often do you thank your friends for being who they are? Do you thank them for making time for you, thinking up special things to do together, and taking the time to listen or just hang out? Do you thank them for the little things, the memories that you make, and the ways they sacrifice their own desires in order to do what they know you love? Too often we take our friendships for granted. If you haven't thanked your friends recently, call them up or send them a card or email just because. Think of the admirable qualities they show and the things they have done, and thank them for it all!

Thankful to Teachers
As a teacher myself, I have been blessed by the thank-you cards and gifts students bless me with. It has made me more thoughtful in making sure that I thank my teachers as well. Even though they are paid to teach, they put a lot of work in to it and pour out a lot of time and energy into helping you learn things you wouldn't otherwise have known. Even if the class wasn't your favorite or you don't particularly like their style of teaching, there are always things you can find to be thankful for.

My last few years of high school, I made it a point to write cards and often give small gifts to each of the teachers I took lessons from. At college, though I don't have the resources or time to give gifts to all of the many teachers I had, I made it a priority to make sure that I wrote a thank-you card to each of them. I didn't want to be seen as a "teacher's pet" trying to earn brownie points or make them like me, but I wanted to communicate my thankfulness for all they had put into teaching that semester. So, I gave them cards the last day of class or right before I took the final exam.

This Saturday, it amazed me at how much my cards brightened the day of my last two teachers. One of them (who had gotten a card last semester as well, since I was in a class of his both semesters) thanked me sincerely and said, "You know, you're the only one who ever does this anymore." When I gave the other teacher a card, he positively lit up and said "thank you" in a very surprised and pleased way, saying that the card had just made his Saturday (we had a final at 8 a.m.!) so much better. He kept thanking me enthusiastically - for a little card! The 15 cents the card cost and the 5 minutes it took to write it was definitely worth cheering someone up that much! I found it a sad reflection of our society that out of hundreds of students on campus, barely anyone takes the time to actually thank the teachers. Instead, we spend more time complaining about how they're too hard or how much we dislike the class. They are attempting to give us the tools to learn, and we should be grateful for that even if the class is not our favorite subject!

Living a life of Thankfulness
The list of people we should thank could go on forever. We should thank those who show us hospitality - sending at least a card used to (and should!) be common courtesy. We should thank those doing jobs we take for granted, like the janitors that clean the bathrooms in public restrooms. We should thank the waitress at the restaurant and the cashier at the grocery store. I have always found it amazing how someone's face will light up when you give them a cheery "thank you" with a smile. It is rewarding for me to see how they are blessed by such a simple action!

In the comment section, please share if you feel led, answering any, all, or none of the following questions:
  • Who do you most often take for granted and could start showing more thankfulness to?
  • What is your favorite way of showing thankfulness to others? (cards, phone calls, in person, emails, etc.)


Rachel Ann said...

Saying thanks to my family is definately something that I need to work on. It is so easy to say thank-you to someone who is not usually completing certain tasks for you or a complete stranger (like someone holding the door open for you). However, my family is closer to me than any other group of people and they definately deserve more thanks than I give (especially my parents).

I would say that my way of communicating thanks depends on the situation. I strongly prefer doing it in person (or on the phone), but sometimes (like when I'm at school) this is not always possible. I will usually send an email in this case, although I have used cards sometimes.

Joanna said...

Anna, thank you for this wonderful post. It is a great reminder.

The part that jumped out to me is the section where you wrote, "Do you thank each member of the family for the chores that they do, or do you just expect that they do them and reprimand them if they forget?". I find myself doing this often - I expect my siblings to do their chores and if they don't, I critisize. I pray that the Lord will continue to help me in this area and I know He is faithful to do so!

As far as my favorite way to say "thank you", I really enjoy stamping homemade cards for others.

Thank you for the post! May the Lord bless you abundantly as you continue to follow Him!


Jack's Mommy said...

What a great post!

Now I feel positively sad - I never, ever, not once in my entire college career, ever thought to give my teachers a thank you card. It just simply didn't cross my mind.

Good for you for thinking of it!

Anonymous said...

Emails. For me, it is easiest to send a thank-you through emailing, unless the person you are thanking does not have an email address.....for me that would be a bummer. :-( Thank you for taking the time to make this blog. I assure you that it has made a difference! :-)

~Love in Christ, Rachel~

Maureen said...

Personally, I'd rather get a card in the mail or an in person thank you than an e-card, but that's just me of course :-). Some e-cards I like though!

Don't forget to say thank you to parents or siblings for teaching you to say thank you!

Anonymous said...

Reading your post made me wish I gave my professors in college a thank you note at the end of the semester! Two of my teachers in particular could have used a thank you note (my classmates would be putting them down, behind the teachers back of course but still it was mean).

I know I don't say thank you enough to the people around me. Instead I'm known to complain to my family about how bad of a job they're doing things (evil I know!). It will feel funny and weird at first but I'm going to try and express my tahnkfulness to my family. If I ever take another class I will be sure to write a thank you note too!

I like to give thank you notes and thanking in person but I feel that tahnking in an email is impersonal.