Ironically, it was my mother who first taught me the early gold of thankfulness. I don’t know if she had read about it in some Christian literature. Or if those little occasions when she gave thanks were actually spin-offs from a bigger event. Nonetheless, it was my mum who steered me towards thanksgiving for the bright sunshine, the cheery windbrooms of a sunny morn, the sedate beauty of freshly mown lawns and happy flowers in the wind. Very sadly, thankfulness for the little things in life didn’t roost long in my mother’s heart. With her, it always had to be a seismic upheaval to warrant thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, quickly, the littles lost their allure for her.
But I will forever be grateful to my mum for being the first to sow in me the seed of thanking God for littles.
While it is a lesson that has stayed with me for many years now, God often deepens that lesson. Some years ago, a blogger friend taught me to begin the morning with praise and thanksgiving for the beauty of Nature. His words caught my spirit and I’ve followed that advice as faithfully as I can; the mornings when I don’t, well, I can tell the difference.
This thanksgiving for the little and great gifts God keeps hidden in the wraps of Nature is for me the seed that grows into a tree. It is this type of thanksgiving that opens my heart to be thankful for all the other blessings I would otherwise take for granted – family, work, health, life itself – no matter how rough and rugged the terrain. But when I get so caught up in the gnarled roots of my every days and the songs of my feathered friends and the serenity of little blooms gently bestirred by soft winds barely touch me, then my day inevitably falls among weeds.
The same happens when in impatience I toss aside the little things to be thankful for, keeping my eyes trained for bigger ships, gigantic and the earth-shattering, as Ellen Fassbender says in Saturday Smiles. When I discount the power of littles, my thanks for the earth-moving events that may come are hollow and tinny.
They yield no life. Nothing from them live long enough.
The other lesson I learn and re-learn is that I have to make the effort at being thankful and grateful. Life does not always put its beauty on easy display. Often, especially when the seas churn, the signposts to thankfulness go into hiding it seems. We see nothing except for the waves – unless we willfully go in search of songs for our heart. Some time back, a biologist warned to beware the time when the birds fall silent, for it will mean that a place has died.
I have never forgotten those words and today, they sound a slightly different caution to me. That when my heart no longer sings the notes of true thanksgiving, my spirit will cease to live.