Thanks is a lot bigger word than it looks like

Nov. 25, 2012 @ 08:00 AM

Thanks. It’s a word we throw around a lot. We nonchalantly call “thanks” over our shoulders. It’s a pretty handy word. Short, sweet and to the point. Yet, if we take seriously its true meaning, we might pause and take more care in this expression of gratitude we take so lightly.

From the old German, dank (gratitude) and the Latin, tongere (to know), thanks literally means “to know gratitude.” The first definition given on the internet dictionary is the one we all know and assume when we hear the word “thanks.” It is:

1. an expression of gratitude, as in “a letter of thanks”

But the second meaning I think is closer to the true definition - to know gratitude - and the way we need to view it in terms of the day of thanks we call Thanksgiving.

2. a feeling of gratitude, an expression of a state of gratitude

What would it be like to live in a state of gratitude? We would be giving thanks constantly because we have so many things for which to be thankful. Most of what we have came from the hands of someone else. For example - you may have bought that sweet potato for the yams at the grocery store or market, but were it not for the person who transported it to the store, the person who harvested it, the person who cared for it, and the person who planted it, you couldn’t buy it! That’s at least five others to thank for their service to you!

WOW! Living in a state of gratitude isn’t easy! Yet, we cannot afford spiritually to give thanks only once a year for all that we have.

I’ve kept a journal for as long as I remember, and in the back of it I have a “gratitude list.” I try to add to it daily, even if only to say thank God I’m alive, I woke up today, and I am able to walk and talk and freely move about with two legs and two arms and eyes and ears that work.

If we all truly lived in a state of thanks, it would destroy the epidemic of entitlement devouring our culture. Living in a state of thanks would slow us down and help us make more careful, considerate choices based on a mindset of thanksgiving. To live in a state of gratitude is to focus on others, not self. It is to acknowledge that we are neither dependent nor codependent, but rather interdependent as a people. We all need each other, and we all need to know we have something to contribute that is of worth. It is learning to give AND receive thanks that set in motion that first Thanksgiving that we tell the children about. It is a way to live in peace with one another - for you cannot hate someone for whom you are grateful.

In our Methodist doctrine, as well as in many others, we call Holy Communion “The Great Thanksgiving.” As we become mindful of all the blessings that come our way, as we unravel the complexities of how we receive all good things, when we come to the end of the chain of thanks, we find a Creator. That God, our creator, is the source of ALL THINGS. God gives us land and water and fish and fowl and vegetation and companionship and sunshine and rain and soooooooooooo many things, we couldn’t possibly name them all. God, above all others, is the one whom we thank and praise and adore because of all he has given to us and each and every thing we have received from His hand.

So when you sit down to eat that turkey, be mindful of how you came to have a turkey to eat. When you pass the potatoes, yams and cranberry sauce, think of those who worked at hard labor to bring them to you. Pause to thank God for making it all possible. Thank God for the family you have with you. Make it a goal to start this Thanksgiving keeping a gratitude list, and adding to it every day. Who knows, this state of thanks may be contagious? We might start a trend. God is good - all the time. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.


Reach the Rev. Caren Bigelow Morgan at Waxhaw United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 9, 200 McDonald Street, Waxhaw, N.C. 28173 or (704) 843-3931 or