Each year, Thanksgiving reminds us to express gratitude, cherish family, and celebrate the beauty of life. This year, Thanksgiving had new significance as our family mourned the loss of loved ones. We were reminded to honor our rich family legacy of faith, love and service in the community. This begins by exploring the question of: “what is in your hands to make a difference in the world?” By raising this question, we honor the life of our great-aunt Geneva (our family matriarch) who dedicated her life to building a brighter future for the next generation. Absent from us in the body but forever present in our souls as we remind ourselves that we too can make a difference. This requires each of us to roll up our sleeves and undertake our moral responsibility to build the type of world that we want to live in. This is a prized treasure that we pass to the generations to come. Aunt Geneva recognized this transformative power with our reach. The type of power needed to strengthen our families, our communities, and our world.
Aunt Geneva taught many important lessons on the nature of living a life filled with thanksgiving and gratitude:
Gratitude is a choice. I choose gratitude each and every day. This is not contingent on how I feel, what I see nor even what I hear. The choice is rooted in my faith and intentional actions. I am grateful to God for the gift of life, family, friends, students, mentees and the village.
Gratitude is a way of life. It serves as a compelling action where each of us can leverage our time, talent and energy for the betterment of society.
Gratitude is a gift to share with others. I had the honor of providing the opening prayer at the Thanksgiving event at our law school. I shared a prayer from South African anti-apartheid activist, speaker, and author- Alan Paton. The prayer focused on the importance of pursuing justice.
Prayer for Courage to Do Justice
O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears that I may, this coming day, be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen.
This prayer is a clarion call to action. It reminds us that we can make a difference by ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Matthew 25 provides a blueprint for this type of community-building which leads to societal reform. It includes: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, providing clothing for those in need, caring for the sick, and visiting those who are in prison.
I also emailed a friend and requested prayers on Thanksgiving. She shared this lovely prayer:
If there is righteousness in the heart,
If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.
May the house in which we offer thanks be large enough and welcoming enough to include the other. Amen
This prayer reminds of us that we are all interrelated therefore we should constantly beg the question of: “Am I my brother’s and sister’s keeper?” until we can answer affirmatively- Yes, I am.
I leave you with a gratitude challenge- celebrate the essence of thanksgiving each and every day. At the Thanksgiving breakfast, I received a card with a guide for suggested discussion for Thanksgiving. It included these questions which can serve a guide for reflection on your gratitude journey:
· What is the greatest difficulty you faced this year that turned out to be a blessing? How so?
· What stranger did you meet this year that most impacted your life? What would you tell them today?
· Who are three people that you are grateful for this year? What have they taught you and what will you do to thank them?
REFLECT. PAUSE. SHARE ABOUT YOUR THANKSGIVING JOURNEY. TAKE ACTION.
Remember, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” W.J. Cameron