By Colonel Bill Luttrell –
She was standing in an aisle, at the end of a table, watching as I moved around the convention center greeting people. There were several thousand men, women and children who had come to celebrate Thanksgiving at The Salvation Army community dinner. She was six or seven years of age, appearing very confident and sincere for her young age. I sensed she knew exactly what she wanted to do. As I came near to where she was standing, she took a bold step forward and looked up at me with her clear brown eyes. I anticipated what she would say, “….can I have another piece of pie and a dinner to take home to my sick brother?”
She spoke with a clear voice, “Thank you” she said shyly, “thank you for the pie and the turkey dinner, I’m not hungry any more.” She finally smiled and quickly returned to a table where a woman sat with several other children. Her genuine expression of thanksgiving continues to be a source of inspiration to me and my ministry.
This type of sharing will be exhibited by Salvationists and volunteers across our territory again this holiday season. The responses of men, women and children will create a patchwork of thanksgiving painted in a variety of languages and framed against a backdrop of culture and ethnic diversity.
In our very broad arena of life circumstances, each of us must be able to step forward and express our own thanks as recipients of kind acts shared by others. Not doing so would leave us ungrateful and disconnected from emotion and social awareness.
Therefore, I must inquire, “For what then, do you step forward to express your words of Thanksgiving?” What is it that so fills your soul with thankfulness that you create courage in response for the blessings you receive.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:19-20). “Always …. for everything” gives us an unending source of reasons for which we can be thankful.
Captain Mark Fagerstrom (serving with his wife Jennifer and their children, Tyler, Stephanie and Nicholas at The Salvation Army Institute for Officers’ Training in Moscow) writes in a recent newsletter about their “perceptions” of what service in Russia is like. He outlines some of the difficulties which they are experiencing such as language, schooling, lack of water, travel limitations, the money system and food (to name a few).
Mark then clarifies that these are difficulties only from their own perception. In fact, he states, thousands of people in Moscow handle these matters effectively every day. It’s their “perception” that really presents challenge to them.
This account of the Fagerstroms’ adjustment to a new lifestyle and culture challenges our perception of Thanksgiving. It is not “a matter of determining the things we are thankful for, but understanding our need to be thankful for everything in spite of circumstances.
The Psalmist states this fact clearly and frequently: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. For his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 104; 107; 118). These are inexhaustible and everlasting resources of why we can be thankful: “…He is Good…. His mercy endures forever.” His mercy is new every morning because of his faithfulness. He does not give to us what we, as sinners, justly deserve. For out of his heart of compassion, he demonstrates his grace which is the unmerited favor of God …and it endures forever.
So it is not a matter of what it is we are thankful for, rather are we willing to step forth, in childlike gratitude, and say, “Thank you, Father, for your goodness and your mercy and thank you for everything.” We may even sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord because we are so overwhelmed with Thanksgiving!