This past week was Thanksgiving, and the importance of gratitude is especially emphasized during this time of the year. So what is gratitude and why does it concern me? According to True to The Faith, gratitude is, “A feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and spiritually strong. We should regularly express our gratitude to God for the blessings He gives us and to others for the kind acts they do for us.” Usually when someone mentions gratitude I think of the basics such as food, shelter, clothing, and family, but there is so much more to be grateful for.
In 2012 Hurricane Sandy caused devastating destruction along parts of the East coast. Along with other people from our ward and stake I traveled to New York to participate in Mormon Helping Hands. Lead by a few missionaries, we walked along the streets and helped anyone who needed help cleaning their homes, or even tearing them down because of severe water damage. Although I did have fun kicking through a wall and throwing a hammer through a door, it was a humbling experience. It made me realize that I am super lucky to live where I do, and to to have a home.
A few years ago I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. This book tells the extraordinary story of the Boom family, and their experiences in Nazi Germany. The Boom family hid Jewish people in their home and were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister Betsy were placed in a camp together. On one occasion Corrie said that, “all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of Hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop. It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.” Corrie was living in extremely horrible and inhumane conditions, and seemingly had every right to be bitter and ungrateful for her current situation. Yet, she and her sister Betsy found things to thank Heavenly Father for. One day as they were reading from the Bible that they kept hidden from the supervisors they came across 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says,” Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The two sisters proceeded to give thanks for the very fleas that infested their mattresses and kept them up at night. Not long after they had done so they realized that it was the fleas that keep the supervisors out of their rooms, and in that way the insects had saved them from potential harassment. Although, most of us will most likely never be in as dire a situation as Corrie was, we still live in hard times.
Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a friendship or any other hardship, we all endure trials. Yet, according to President Monson,” We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” If we do as President Monson says and adopt an attitude of gratitude our burdens will become lighter and we can help others see the joy in life even if its something small.
One day my mom and I were out shopping and were up next in the check out line. The person in front of us was being rude, and giving the cashier a hard time. When it was our turn to buy our desired items we both were polite and said thank you. The cashier was impressed by our gratitude and gave us a discount on our purchase. I am not saying that you should expect a reward for your attitude of gratitude, but I am saying that when you follow the example of Jesus Christ it will not go unnoticed, and it will strengthen your relationship with Heavenly Father, and will help others feel the spirit.
In a talk entitled Gratitude for the Goodness of God, Robert D. Hales stated that quote, ” Gratitude expressed to our Heavenly Father in prayer for what we have brings a calming peace—a peace which allows us to not canker our souls for what we don’t have. Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure. Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future. A recognition of and appreciation for our gifts and talents which have been given also allows us to acknowledge the need for help and assistance from the gifts and talents possessed by others. Gratitude is a divine principle: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7.) This scripture means that we express thankfulness for what happens, not only for the good things in life but also for the opposition and challenges of life that add to our experience and faith. We put our lives in His hands, realizing that all that transpires will be for our experience.”
As we strive to follow Jesus Christ may we find things to be thankful for. Whether it be something as unlikely as fleas or as likely as our families there is always something to express our gratitude to Heavenly Father for. I would like to bear my testimony that this is the true church, that God loves each one of us. And as we find things to be thankful for we will receive peace and our testimonies will be strengthened.