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Don’t worry….rather, be thankful

For the first time in a decade I won’t be spending Thanksgiving Day with my immediate family and it’s been a cause for melancholy.

Maybe I should have made that a ‘pause’ for melancholy.

While I won’t be spending time with the ones I cherish most in the world – let’s just say I’ll be after a cure for ‘what ails me’ – I also can’t let myself in this holiday time slide into ingratitude.

I decided to take time and slip into something I don’t use often enough when tough, challenging, or disappointing times hit: the Good Book.

Somewhere I read in Philippians 4:6-7 the apostle Paul began with the words: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Be anxious for nothing? That’s a lot easier said than done these days: a plane just blew up in the Middle East killing hundreds, hundreds more killed by terrorists in France, an unarmed black man was shot dead by police in America – again, and wild, seemingly uncontrollable, weather is raging almost everywhere.

A minister friend, more familiar with the teachings of The Good Book than me, says this verse contains not only a command against anxiety but a cure for it: prayer, with thanksgiving.

He said The Living Bible paraphrases that same verse this way: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.”

My preacher friend also tells people that the secret to peace in life is having a short worry list and a long prayer list. “Don’t worry about anything,” he says, “but pray about everything.”

Obviously, by Thanksgiving the Good Book’s not referring to the time-honored American tradition of gorging on turkey, ham, sweet potatoes and football games but to the “attitude of gratitude”.

I guess what the Apostle was telling them was that thankfulness shouldn’t be reserved for one day on the calendar, but every day.

Take a moment every day to pick out something, someone, some way you were made better and be grateful for it. The late coach Jimmy Valvano said if you laugh, and you think, and you cry: that’s a full day. It is, Coach, it really is.

I don’t know how you do it, but try to guard against the tendency to be negative. Sure, there are plenty of things to criticize, but there are also a whole lot more reasons to be thankful.

Finally, if someone has made a difference in your life: thank them. Angels, they tell me, are gifts sent from above in the guise of people. So over the holiday weekend why don’t you send a note, a text, an email, or just call somebody: a teacher, a mentor, a friend, or a family member who’s impacted your life. Don’t worry, you’ll find the words to say.

And if you don’t feel particularly grateful for anything or anyone, remember that gratitude must usually be expressed before it is felt.

So give thanks; don’t eat too much, drink too much, nap too much, or watch too much football. Just be thankful that you can.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer with Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.