Attitude of gratitude

Published 7:04 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving means a time for being thankful for so many things and recognizing them on this special day.

It is also a day to spend time with family and having fun. A time to watch the Macy’s parade and eat a feast of food, watch football, and anticipate what we will purchase on ‘Black Friday’.

But it’s also a day to recognize that being on this Earth and living in America where we are free and have the luxuries, such as food and family.

Three area ministers – one retired, and two who are still active – took time to reflect on what the holiday ‘should’ mean, and how we can apply it to our lives for the other 364 days for which we should also be thankful. All three seemed to have one theme that coursed through: faith and family.

“For the most part it’s a time we gather with family,” said Rev. Willie McLawhorn of Conway Baptist Church in Northampton County. “Much of the aspect of Thanksgiving is celebratory around family and having families together.

“We live in a society where families are scattered all across this land,” McLawhorn said. “Times are not like the old days when families stayed near. A lot of people now travel on this day, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“We should give thanks to God for his love for us,” he added. “Thankful as well that we have football, and Black Friday and a chance for people to get out for sales and shopping.”

McLawhorn also points out that we should not get the holiday’s purpose confused.

“If we could get as excited about what God has done for us as we do about what we anticipate in the stores, then churches would be packed,” McLawhorn went on to say. “We’re the richest and most blessed land on this earth because God has not turned his back on us. But if we turn our backs on God, think what it would be like if those blessings went elsewhere.”

McLawhorn is also a Gold-Star father, having lost a son in the war for freedom who was killed in Afghanistan while serving in the United States Army on Dec. 12, 2010.

“We must not forget our military,” McLawhorn emphasized. “Many of them are serving far away from family and friends on this day. I have four nephews and three in-laws who aren’t able to be with their families on this day; but we need to thank them – and all those who serve – for what they do for us.”

Rev. Claude Odom of New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church in the Gates County community of Corapeake echoed much of what his fellow pastor had said.

“It’s a day in which we should appreciate God and having a sense of the Lord” Odom said. “We should also gather as families, whether from far or near, and in all things give thanks.

“Often we put more value in receiving blessings than in what we’ve been given,” Odom added. “Having this sacred time with those we love is just such precious quality time; and for those of us who will get a chance to see our children and grandchildren it is all the more so.”

Odom spoke of parenthood and how it also factors into the holiday.

“Someone once said, ‘We never know how good a parent we have been until our children become parents’,” he said reflectively. “When we see this we realize how much we have given each child purpose and meaning.

Odom plans to gather as many family members around on Thanksgiving Day as possible this year.

“We must have a sense of gratitude because of where the source of our thanks comes from,” he noted. “When we put God first we learn how to give thanks everyday and not just on one day of the year.

“It shouldn’t be about wealth and material things, but rather how much each individual has done, and what they can do to help somebody.”

Rev. Ralph White, retired pastor of Indian Woods Missionary Baptist Church in Bertie County, had similar words.

“It should be a time of great thanks,” he said, emphasizing the word ‘great’. “Our family will have some 30 guests all gathered together and I hope we can use this to reflect on the goodness of God. We’ll see big ones and little ones and we should always be looking ahead.

“We mess so many things up from a spiritual point of view,” White continued. “Much as scripture tells us we should ‘Be still, and know’, we should be still and acknowledge our blessings.”

White touched upon other parts of the country – and the world – where people are not worried about who’ll get the turkey drumstick at the dinner table.

“Look at victims of the hurricane in the Philippines, or the tornado in Illinois,” he recounted. “Here in America we have a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs and these people have nothing, but they are thankful that they still have their lives. We are truly blessed in how God has blessed us.

“We’re blessed to have a Black Friday as part of our Thanksgiving,” he said. “What we have to further be thankful for are the little things – like nature, the birds and the trees – those things that you don’t always think about.”

White took a moment to reflect upon his own life and how he has reminders that keep his sense of gratitude in perspective.

“I had four roommates when I was in high school,” he reflected. “And now I’m the only one that’s left.

“The others are gone and that will always give me something to be thankful about,” he added. “I’m still here not because I’m better, but because of God’s grace and mercy. Our big blessings are so often right in front of us, and sometimes that causes us to miss the little ones.

“Lastly, we have to be thankful that we live in America,” he said as the pride welled up in his voice. “That is something we can all be proud of.”

This year when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner and say a blessing, try to remember to include all those who are still on the road to recovery from whatever grief they have encountered. That is what I am thankful for, not only at Thanksgiving or other holidays, but every minute of every day of every year.