The gospel song All Good Gifts, from the Broadway musical Godspell, is one of my favorite songs at this time of the year. I think it’s because it marries the gratitude of the season with a grower’s perspective. Planting a seed each season is simply an act of faith. We can do everything we can to make sure that seed grows, but there’s a lot we can’t control about that process.
Preparing a lesson for my junior high Sunday school class this past weekend, I stumbled on a phrase from an old Burl Ives song I had never heard before: “As you go through life, make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.” In other words, see the things you have, not the things you don’t.
Both songs seem to be appropriate reminders for us, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week — a day of family gatherings, turkey, football, oh, and giving thanks.
Giving thanks, or saying ‘thank you’, is so simple, isn’t it, and yet so often forgotten. It is an action that actually rewards both the giver and the recipient — sometimes the giver the most. In her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work For You, TV anchorman Deborah Norville cites research by various individuals that point to benefits of gratitude and positive thinking.
As a journalist, Norville wanted to know if there was more to being thankful than just warm fuzzies, and it turns out there is. One University of California-Davis study quantified it, and found grateful people are more optimistic, more likely to help others, more joyful, and healthier.
On Jan. 1, 2008, Los Angeles attorney John Kralik was struggling through a second divorce, limping along in a failing law firm, and was regretting all the things that had derailed him in his 53 years. On that New Year’s Day, he vowed to focus on what he had, instead of what he did not (sound familiar?).
Putting that vow into action, he decided to write a thank-you note every day of that new year. It started with thank-yous for his Christmas gifts, then broadened into a thank-you note to his building manager for sending plumbers to fix his toilet. Then a thank-you to the Starbucks clerk, then clients, then college friends, and so on.
What the Cleveland native discovered may come as no surprise. “The more thank-yous I wrote, the more I found to be grateful for.”
He didn’t stop after his 12-month experiment, and has continued to write thank-you notes. And since then, he’s received surprising benefits, including improved relationships with his children and ex-wife, a new job as judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, and solid financial footing. Oh, and he turned his year of self-discovery into a book about his journey: 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.
What would our lives be like if we said “thank you” more often? If we noticed the doughnut and not the hole?
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“We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good… The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health, our food… No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts… But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!”
— “All Good Gifts”