Column: Don’t worry, be grateful

by Father Mark Goldasich

How’s your 401(k) doing?

I opened a homily several weeks ago with this little question. It seemed to capture where the minds of many people were and still are. With the continuing fluctuation of the stock market, the increasing price of food, and reports of more and more layoffs, there is understandably a pall of anxiety over the nation.

But all is not hopeless. A little story about a man named Mike McAdams of Nashville, Tenn., might provide a very practical solution to our worries.

After visiting his wife Cheryl in the intensive care unit of a hospital, McAdams was asked about her condition by an anxious friend.

“It’s touch-and-go, said McAdams. “She recognized me. We prayed together and held hands. And then we quoted the passage about thanksgiving in the Book of James that says: ‘Consider it joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.’”

“You know,” McAdams continued, “it’s impossible to be anxious and thankful at the same time!” (Found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)

Can it really be that something as simple as thanksgiving is an effective solution to anxiety? I’d answer with an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Martin Luther once observed that “the greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded.” Who, for instance, regularly thinks about his health with gratitude, unless it’s endangered? Or who truly appreciates a roof over her head, until the house is in foreclosure? Or who is even aware of the blessing of electricity, until a power outage disrupts our lives? Because we have a tendency to take things for granted, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing what we don’t have rather than all the blessings that are already there.

That’s why I’m writing this Thanksgiving Day column a bit earlier than normal. Given the present nervous mood that many find themselves in, perhaps we all need a little more time this year to prepare for this holiday, to bring things back into balance, to refocus our eyes on the gifts God has so generously showered upon us. I’d suggest a couple of enjoyable and low-cost (in terms of time and effort) ways to get into a “Thanksgiving state of mind.” Each day our lives are touched in countless positive and helpful ways. Make a conscious effort in the next two weeks to say thank you to those who serve you — from the person who collects your money in the drive-thru lane, to a clerk who points you in the right direction in a store. Let no kindness go unnoticed or unacknowledged.

Secondly, take a hint from the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, who several years ago sent out a neat Thanksgiving card that I’ve kept and regularly pull out. At the top it says: Thanksgiving ABC’s; underneath are the words “We thank thee, O Lord . . .”

The rest of the card has each letter of the alphabet written down the left-hand side, followed by a blank line. On that line people are invited to think of something (or someone) that starts with that letter and write that blessing down.

It’s fun. Why not try out the Thanksgiving ABC’s for yourself? You’ll probably feel better instantly and find, as did Mike McAdams, that you really can’t be anxious and grateful at the same time.

 

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