Much to be thankful for
Today, everyone in the U.S. focuses on the Thanksgiving holiday. Most of us, surrounded by family around a table filled with abundance, will find it easy to see how much we have to be thankful for. Some will be eating, or serving, Thanksgiving dinner in one of the many churches or other groups that cook a hot Thanksgiving dinner for those who otherwise would not have one. I know of families with children who, either one time or each year, help to serve those dinners. Shut-ins might have something prepared by a neighbor and those in nursing homes or jail will also have a holiday meal.
Unfortunately, the holiday won’t be the picture perfect happy time for everyone. For some, it will be the sharp sense of absence of the first Thanksgiving without a loved one who died in the past year. In too many families, the holiday season is an occasion of conflict, ranging from arguments to violence, or perhaps just plain neglect.
Some people will be working today as they perform services that are needed 24/7: hospital staff, police, firefighters. Others are on-call during the holiday. And of course, our military troops serving away from home may get a holiday dinner, but that’s not the same as being with family.
My own list of thanksgiving includes being able to practice the fullness of my faith and give thanks to ever providential God, family who are as healthy as can be expected, friends who have been there in good times and not so good times, a local Catholic community providing soil for growth, Pope Benedict XVI who is right on top of shepherding (I puffy heart my German shepherd), fairly healthy, and while several massive challenges still lie ahead, being able to say that I have what I need.
“In all things, give thanks”
The NAB version of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” It may not be God’s ideal will, but it is at least God’s permissive will and “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Although I write mostly on Catholic topics and people, an example of both verses that particularly stands out for me is a non-Catholic Christian named Corrie ten Boom. I’ll have to rely on memory because I don’t have access to the book that tells the story, but general information about her can be found in her Wikipedia entry.
Corrie ten Boom’s family was very religious and hid Jews from the Nazis. Eventually the family was betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister Betsie eventually went to Ravensbruck where the conditions were as horrible as Auschwitz/Oswiecim. When herded to where the room for them and numerous other women, they discovered the sleeping mattresses were swarming with fleas.
Betsie started to give thanks but Corrie (to paraphrase) said, “No way am I going to give thanks for fleas!” Betsie reminded her of the verse to give thanks for all things and Corrie eventually said okay and gave thanks even for the fleas.
The two sisters had somehow managed to smuggle a small Bible into the camp, but they could’ve been executed for having “meetings.” They did so anyway, bringing Christ to women in great suffering and likely to die, all the time wondering why the guards let them alone. One day, Betsie excitedly told Corrie she’d learned why the guards left them alone. It was because of the fleas. The guards wouldn’t step into the room because of the fleas. Because of the fleas, Betsie and Corrie brought Christ to women before they died.
And so, I’m learning to be thankful even for the “fleas” in my life, knowing that God can bring good out of everything.