Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Gratitude,” wrote L. R. Akers, “has been called the memory of the heart. A heart without gratitude is like a grate filled with fuel but unlighted, a cold and dead thing.” He believes a cardinal sin of our modern life is ingratitude. Anthropologists will tell you that gratitude isn’t something which all men possess. Some tribes or ethnic groups have no expression for gratitude and, as such, have never learned to express appreciation.
Most parents would agree that gratitude is something which must be learned, and wise is the parent who teaches a youngster how to express gratitude. A dentist-friend of mine, Andrew Pallos, said, “I’ve got to show you a letter which I just received from a little seven- or eight-year-old girl who is my patient.”
In a child’s handwriting was the following note: “Dear Dr. Pallos, Thank you very much for the retainer. My dad told me how thankful I should be and I am. I did not really want a retainer, but I know that it will help me and make my teeth grow straight…. My dad told me to take very good care of it, too. This gift is the biggest gift I have ever got, and it probably will be the biggest gift I ever do get…. Love, Bethel.” How about that? Learning to be grateful, even if it involves overcoming a child’s fear of a dentist.
Often we are grateful, at least in a measure, but we don’t take the time to express our gratitude, or just assume that someone knows. Take, for example, Dr. William Stidger, who was with a group of friends one evening as they commented on how terrible the economy was and how dim things were in the world. “There isn’t much to be thankful for,” one of them remarked. Stidger thoughtfully replied, “Well, I for one am grateful to Mrs. Wendt.” And who was Mrs. Wendt? A schoolteacher, who, 30 years before, had gone out of her way to encourage him in his studies. As they chatted together, someone inquired, “Did you ever thank her?” Dr. Stidger admitted that he often thought about it, but had never really gotten around to it.
Prompted by the conversation, that evening when his guests left, he sat down and wrote the letter he had thought about for many a year. A few weeks later, he received a reply from the former schoolteacher. Written in the shaky hand of an aged person, the letter read: “My dear Willie: I want you to know what your note meant to me. I am an old lady in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and seeming like the last leaf on the tree.
“You will be interested to know, Willie, that I taught school for fifty years and in all that time yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and it cheered my lonely old heart as nothing has cheered me in many years.” And that was it! Think of it over a half-century of teaching children, giving her life, but not one person ever took time to write a note and say, “Thank you!”
To whom do you owe debts of gratitude? Teachers, parents, business mentors, a Sunday School teacher who led you to Christ? No one is a selfmade person. You got where you are in life because someone, somewhere, helped you. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” wrote Paul, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As W. T. Purkiser put it, “Little people are rarely thankful. Grateful people are never small.” Think about it!
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.