PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THANKSLIVING: It’s better than THANKSGIVING!” By: Ron Woodrum
I am not sure when, where, or who first used the term “thanksliving”. Peter Gomes, renowned preacher of Harvard University in the 20th Century, (though not one I am particularly able to embrace the theology he embraced), wrote that he had a friend who kept an old Sunday Bulletin from the 1930’s because of the misprint it contained. It was a bulletin printed for Thanksgiving Day Service-but a typographical error left the title on the bulletin exclaiming “Thanksliving Day”. Gomes said, “What a wonderful mistake! Thanksgiving, as an attitude, should lead to thanksliving as an action!” I was content to credit Rev. Gomes with being the author of such a magnificent metamorphosis: Thanksgiving to Thanksliving. Then, while reading a sermon by the Great Baptist Preacher of the 1800’s, Charles H. Spurgeon, I came across these words: “I think that it is better than Thanksgiving: Thanksliving! How is it to be done? By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual constant delighting ourselves in the Lord and by a submissing of our desires to His will!” That is the earliest reference that have found in reference to Thanksgiving/Thanksliving. John F. Kennedy, though not using the words, certainly expressed the concept. He wrote: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, (Thanksgiving), but to live by them, (Thanksliving)”. Then, in further study, I came across an even more profound definition of the Thanksgiving/Thanksliving connection. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “I would maintain that Thanks is the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or with gratitude!” Henry David Thoreau said: “My Thanksgiving is Perpetual”-that pithy affirmation translates thanksgiving into thanksliving. Clement of Alexandria, a Church Father from over 1900 years ago, said: “There is only one offering we can make to God-A Thankful Heart!”-that is the source of Thanksliving!
I love the Thanksgiving holiday! I love the Thanksgiving history! I agree with O’Henry-“Thanksgiving is ours-it is the only truly indigenous American Holiday”. I love Thanksgiving poems. One of my favorite is The Pumpkin, by John Greenleaf Whittier. But I think my favorite Thanksgiving prank was a St. Louis radio show host that told a call-in lady, (he was only joking), to try his special recipe of adding a cup of popcorn to the stuffing placed inside the turkey). She took him serious! She lost her oven and her turkey! He lost his job! My favorite Thanksgiving Story is told by Author/Pastor Chuck Swindoll. In his book Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, in the chapter on “Misunderstanding”, he tells the story told him by a friend who had a friend who was a young attorney in a sizable law firm in Texas. Swindoll says, “This young lawyer worked for a traditional kind of boss who had a thing for Thanksgiving. Every year the boss would go through a sort of ritual; at this large walnut table he would place a series of turkeys for each member in the law firm. It was not just a pick one up if you need one kind of arrangement. It was a formal setting where your turkey would be placed in front of you, and when the time came for you to receive yours, you would step forward to your turkey, express how grateful you were to work for the firm and acknowledge the gift of this sizable bird for your Thanksgiving. But this junior lawyer was single. He had no use for such a large turkey. He didn’t know how to cook one, and if he did, he certainly couldn’t eat that much meat. But every year, because it was expected, he received his turkey with gratitude, and then had to find a taker for his bird. This year, his friends had pulled a trick on him. They replaced his turkey, with a paper mache’ bird, loaded with lead, and wrapped just like the others!
When his turn came, just like the others, he stepped up and received his bird, (not realizing its bogus nature), and left the office with his Thanksgiving Turkey! He boarded the Transit System and headed home, with his bird on his lap. What would he do with it? As he contemplated his annual dilemma a man boarded the bus, and sat down in the vacant seat beside him. The man had recently been laid off, He had been job-hunting all day-no luck. As he shared his sad story with the young lawyer, the lawyer realized that his problem had been solved. This man, with no job, and a large family to feed for the holidays, would be a great candidate to give the turkey to. But not wanting to embarrass him, he offered the turkey for the bargain price of a couple of dollars, (which was the last bit of money the man had). As the man got off the bus, he thanked the lawyer for being so kind as to sell him the turkey at such a reduced price, to help him and his family have a blessed Thanksgiving. He told him-‘I’ll never forget you!’ Nothing could be more true! The stranger walked into his home and announced to his family that a nice man had made it possible for them to have turkey for Thanksgiving in spite of their recent circumstances! Imagine their surprise as they unwrapped the bogus bird only to find a strange conglomeration of paper mache and lead! The Monday, following the holidays, the rest of the firm was so anxious to hear about what the young lawyer thought of his Thanksgiving Turkey! You can only imagine their reaction when they heard that he had sold it, to the stranger in need, on the bus. Swindoll was told by his friend that the entire firm spent the next week searching the bus lines for the stranger who spent Thanksgiving wondering why a fine young lawyer would take his last two dollars and give him a fake turkey. They never found him!” That is a Thanksgiving experience all of us could be thankful to have never had happen to us! Let me conclude this perspective with one of the most powerful quotes I have ever come across on the Transforming power of a grateful heart. It is a quote by author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity; it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”. That Attitude of Gratitude Transforms Thanksgiving into Thanksliving!