In 1 Thessalonians, we read St. Paul’s advice: “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving.”
It’s funny how even some secular stories remind us of the importance of thankfulness. I recently read a fiction book about a café that allowed people to travel through time. There were a lot of caveats, however. You couldn’t change the present. You couldn’t meet anyone who hadn’t already been in the café, you couldn’t leave the seat you sat in to travel through time, and you had just a limited amount of time to stay in the past/future.
With all those restrictions, people wondered what the point was. If you can’t change anything, they asked, why bother?
As it turned out, what changed was not the situation but the heart of the person who traveled, as they saw their situations differently and learned to give thanks for the blessings in their lives.
One woman went back in time to read a letter from her husband who had forgotten her because of Alzheimer’s disease. In the letter, he asked her to remain his wife, even though she was a nurse and he knew her first inclination would be to look at him clinically and take care of him as a nurse would rather than a wife. Another woman went to the future to see if the baby she was carrying survived the pregnancy. You see, this woman had a very serious heart condition that was slowly killing her, and doctors told her that she wouldn’t survive a pregnancy. They advised her to abort, but she would not. Finally, a woman met her estranged sister and made the decision to reunite with her family.
Though fictional stories, these touching scenes remind us that we have a choice when it comes to how we will respond to the events in our lives. We could respond with bitterness, with anger, or with resentment, or we could choose to live as St. Paul taught and be thankful for everything, even our sufferings, for we know that good can come from them. When we unite our suffering with Christ’s on the cross, offer it up for others, or embrace it for the good of someone we love, we allow it to change our hearts.
The nurse in the book didn’t change what happened to her husband, but she changed her response to his illness and became more loving. The mom understood the value of her baby’s life. And the young woman realized the importance of family. They all finally understood what was truly important in life—and it wasn’t a job, or money, or material things. It was the people.
Fictional stories like this can encourage us to take a step outside of ourselves and to see things from another point of view. These stories come into our lives when our guards are down and teach us valuable lessons that we may not be open to should they come from another venue. Through the not-so-subtle messages of this book, we see the value in all human beings—no matter their stage or their ability.
We see that people do not lose dignity, as dignity is a gift freely given by God, and it’s inherent in all of us. Yet we can certainly treat others without the dignity they deserve, and many people do so. This is evident in the advocacy of euthanasia and abortion and in how some people with disabilities are treated.
So as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us think about the people in our lives and within our communities. Do we see their value and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings? Do we give thanks for them because they are children of God?
And then how do we live these values? Do we live them just at home, or do we openly and proudly live our faith so that others can see?
Jesus told His disciples that they must evangelize to the world, making disciples of all nations. This is His charge to us too. Evangelizing to others begins with a thankful heart. It begins with an understanding that God gave us a great gift when He created us and that we must protect this gift in all people.
This Thanksgiving, let us thank God for everything. And let us grow closer to Him and to the people around us by living our faith with joy.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Celebrate Life Magazine family to yours!
This article first appeared in LifeSiteNews at lifesitenews.com/opinion/gratitude-changes-our-hearts-and-leads-us-to-greater-service-of-others.