During this month that nudges us to give thanks, let me give a shout-out to people over the past year who’ve given me moments of joy and hope.
Thanks to the mom in South Haven, Michigan, who sat in the pew ahead of me and my daughter at Mass at St. Basil Church on a breezy summer Sunday. She had her two daughters with her, a teenager and a younger girl of about 6. When the readings began, the little girl flopped sideways onto her sister’s lap. Her mother leaned over and said calmly, “I really need you to sit up now.” The girl hoisted herself upright. No whines, no sighs. “Thank you,” said the mom.
Then, not sure her words had registered, she looked her daughter in the eye, and said with emphasis, “Thank you.” You could tell that her words were meant not to elicit a rote “You’re welcome,” but rather to communicate to her daughter that she was grateful.
What wouldn’t a 6-year-old do to get a thank you like that from Mom, I thought? And what a great sign, especially at Mass, where parents and kids stand side by side as God’s children. The mom and her two daughters later brought up the gifts, after which the girl wriggled in her seat with barely contained glee, and at the closing song she twirled in time to the music. Here’s a mom doing something right.
Thanks to Father Joe Hartmann of Our Lady of the Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado, who began the Eucharist on an August Sunday by saying, “Thank you for coming to Mass this morning!” In the Rocky Mountains (as in Michigan) there are a hundred things you might do on a Sunday morning of your vacation besides attend Mass. We didn’t come to hear Father Joe’s thanks, but it was a welcome surprise.
In his homily he turned himself in—said he’d missed an opportunity when, after a wedding, he’d talked with an unchurched young man who said he was touched by the service. Father Joe said he should have encouraged the young man to reconsider connecting with a church community. He regretted keeping his distance, he said, because God’s moment of grace was being lost. How human.
Thanks to our priest friends who blessed our daughter as she set off for college this year, reminding her to remember always who she is and where she comes from.
Thanks to Pope Francis for talking about mercy: “It’s a mother, the church, and it must go down this path of mercy. It must find mercy for everyone, no?”
Thanks to Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino for causing 37,000 Red Sox fans to sing along with Bob Marley, “Every little thing gonna be all right”—one of Victorino’s walk-up songs when he bats. I couldn’t help hearing in it an echo of 14th-century Julian of Norwich, to whom Jesus said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” This is a message we worriers certainly need to hear.
And thanks finally to whoever told me that one great way to observe Thanksgiving is to write, email, or text people in my life who I’m grateful for, and tell them why—a way to truly practice gratitude.
This article was originally published in the November 2013 issue of At Home with our Faith.
Image: Flickr cc via U.S. Department of Agriculture