When it comes to a personal outlook on life, I decided years ago to adopt an attitude of gratitude toward the world. All the negativity and hatefulness that has become so prevalent in the modern day is easily negated by viewing the entirety of our existence as a blessing. I believe this attitude has the potential to completely change our outlook and put life into new perspective.
In America we set aside a day for Thanksgiving. Some have suggested we should have a season of Thanksgiving. While I support both, the best option would be a lifestyle of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks daily is a powerful spiritual exercise that improves our mental health, keeps our priorities clear, and ultimately keeps life in perspective. If anyone is skeptical, I offer an example of a transformed life.
Dr. William Stidger grew up in Moundsville, West Virginia. His career path eventually led to becoming a highly respected pastor and teacher on the national stage. Suffering from depression, a friend suggested he should reflect on his life and consider reaching out to thank someone who had greatly influenced him. He remembered a kindly teacher from his childhood in Moundsville who had instilled in him a great love of literature. Many decades after leaving her classroom, he wrote her a letter of thanks.
Several days later he received a letter in the shaky handwriting of an elderly woman. Using his boyhood name, the letter began “Dear Willie” and then proceeded to say in part: “I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and, like the last leaf of autumn, lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for fifty years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. I have it by my bedside and I have read it many times. I shall cherish your letter until the day I die.”
This response from his former teacher did so much for William Stidger that he thought of someone else to write, and then someone else, and before he was finished, he had written 500 unexpected letters of thanks. The therapy of thanksgiving had much to do with the lifting of his depression. He was so grateful for every new day, and he lived it to the fullest. The world somehow looked different and seemed just a bit brighter.
For each of us, may we take the time to remember those who have influenced our lives. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, is there someone to whom we might reach out, be it in person or in writing, to say a simple yet profound “thanks”? Our life’s journey is enriched by the people we meet along the way. They impact our lives and give meaning to our existence. Thanksgiving may just be one of the most therapeutic and profound means of keeping our harried lives in perspective, and it is good for the soul.
For me, I have some letters to write to a few of the saints I have met along the journey. An attitude of gratitude is a powerful and profound thing!
The journey continues…
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College