Practice Giving Thanks

Practice Being Thankful.  It’s a good deal!

By Sharon Sheppard

As a freelance writer and former teacher of writing, I’m occasionally asked to help people write letters.  I’ve never been asked to do a love letter or a “Dear John” letter, but one of the most extraordinary letters I’ve helped with did have to do with the heart.  Not a valentine, but the kind of heart that pumps.

While my husband was at Mayo Clinic recovering from a stem cell transplant, I met Scott, a young man in his 30s who had just undergone a heart transplant.   I asked whether I could interview him and write his story, and he agreed.  After the interview, he said, “I need to write a thank you letter, and I don’t know what to say.  I mean, it’s such a huge gift, how do you say thanks for a heart?  I don’t know where to begin.”

The family who donated their teenager’s heart had declined to meet the recipient of this gift, but the thank you letter was required by Mayo, and they would deliver it to the family.  Scott came to me with a rough draft, which needed only a little tweaking.  It was sensitively written and filled with abundant gratitude, as he expressed how important it was to him to be able to live to help raise his two little boys.  He had been at death’s door, and only a donor heart could save his life.  In his letter he told the grieving parents of the donor that his goal was to get out of the hospital in time to walk his five-year-old son, Chase, to school for his first day of kindergarten.  It was the most genuine and profound thank you letter I’ve ever read.

Most of us will not be required to write a letter of that magnitude, but we are constantly showered with gifts:  air to breathe, food to eat, stunning scenery and natural wonders we often fail to give more than a passing glance.   Many of us take the Creator and His work for granted.

Not long ago Forbes Magazine published an article written by Amy Morin, in which she cited a number of scientifically proven benefits of gratitude—physical, emotional, and even social.  Studies show that people who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of optimism and happiness, fewer physical aches and pains, and feel less isolated.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

There is a Donor who gave His life for you and me.  It was an amazing act of grace—incalculable in value.  It was the act that made it possible for us to be forgiven for our sins.  No medication or treatment or white-washing of our sins could make us whole.  He died so we could live.  If we offered only one prayer on Thanksgiving Day, it should be this:  Thank you, Jesus, for dying in my place!  I don’t deserve it, but I accept your Gift!

The Apostle Paul gave us this recipe for happiness.  It’s found in I Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.