There were five kids in my childhood home and my mom was raising us on her own. She worked full time, and for many years, also was putting herself through school. My four siblings and I had the run of the place for much of the time. We cooked, cleaned, cared for each other (and sometimes beat each other up!), and did our best to let our mom sleep once she arrived home from her graveyard shift.
Friends at the time didn’t understand our way of life. “You have SOOO many responsibilities and SOOO many chores,” they complained. “Why can’t you come outside and have fun?” But this life was the life we knew, and we were thankful for it. The five of us loved each other. We had clothes (many beautifully hand made), soup, and cozy beds that we snuggled into together. We weren’t hungry or cold, and we were safe.
During those years, my grandfather, who was our constant companion, continually reminded us that we were the “richest” family in the world, and that we should be thankful for each of God’s gifts, even when those gifts weren’t obvious. Did someone do something nice for you today? Did your teacher teach you something you didn’t know? Didn’t your friend share some of her lunch with you at school? Sure seems like you have a lot to feel happy about, to be thankful for. His message started to stick.
For almost 50 years, whenever I find myself grouchy or frustrated or discouraged, the words seem to float back in. Didn’t someone do something nice for you? His small voice has reminded me to remain in thanksgiving for the many things that I usually forget to notice. Well, yes, my neighbor did get my fourth grader off the bus when I was stuck in traffic. And, true, my boss did leave me a nice note to say that she appreciated my help. And, this morning, my paper girl did toss my paper onto the porch instead of at the end of the driveway so I didn’t have to venture out into the rain.
When I decided to write my book, People Are Good: 100 True Stories to Restore Your Faith in Humanity, I was delighted to discover that not only do people recognize when those tiny acts are changing their day, but they also are so very grateful for the opportunity to offer thanks to those people whose effort meant so much.
Can you imagine what life would look like if we noticed and were grateful for every good and loving act that impacted our day in some unexpected way? Let’s give it a go! Let’s take notice of all those things and ways for which we can be thankful and notice how your own countenance, as well as the attitudes of others, sway toward the happy, toward the positive, toward the grateful, when we simply take the time to notice.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
About the Author: AnnaMarie McHargue has been an editor for 32 years and is the author of People Are Good: 100 True Stories to Restore Your Faith in Humanity, a book dedicated to her beloved grandfather who taught her so much about being thankful. Anna grew up in Redlands, California with her four siblings, Anita, Christopher, Chenoa and Charissa, and currently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Mike, her children, Elena, Giacomo, and Gabriella, and her bulldog, Vince.