I know, I really should be writing about investing. After all, Janet Yellen is speaking today! When are interest rates likely to go up? What will it mean for the markets? What else could possibly matter?
But I keep thinking about gratitude. In part, that’s because in the small group my wife and I are part of we were just talking about ways to foster hearts of gratitude in our kids.
It’s also because of some good news I received today. On the heels of some shocking news earlier this year that a good friend of ours has cancer came word today that treatments over the summer have been successful and she is cancer-free. I’ve been so happy and thankful that it’s been hard to concentrate.
Of course, it’s easy to be thankful when things are going well.
Today also brought some difficult news from other friends. Their health-related journey appears to be headed in a very different direction. And yet, throughout their experience, what’s been evident is the depth of their faith, the strength of their marriage, and their heartfelt gratitude for the gift of each day.
At a time when so many others might want to draw inward, they’ve wanted to move outward—toward relationships and encouraging others. At a time when so many others might feel the need mostly to receive, they’ve been motivated to give. At a time when so many others might be tempted to doubt, they’ve been moved to trust.
Their story has been amazingly inspiring. I’m so thankful to know them.
Thinking about gratitude reminded me of a story told by the Reverend Dr. John Westerhoff in a booklet called “Grateful and Generous Hearts.”
Writer Fulton Oursler had vivid memories of an old woman named Anna who helped care for him as a child. When she sat down to eat she would say, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.” Oursler wondered why she thanked God since she would get the food regardless of whether she gave thanks or not.
“It makes everything taste better to be thankful,” Anna said. “You know, it’s a game an old preacher taught me to play. It’s about looking for things to be thankful for. Like one day I was walking to the store to buy a loaf of bread. I look in all the windows. There are so many pretty clothes.”
“But Anna, you can’t afford to buy any of them!” he interjected.
“Oh, I know, but I can play dolls with them. I can imagine your mom and sister all dressed up in them and I’m thankful. Much obliged, dear Lord, for playing in an old lady’s mind.”
Many years later, when Anna was dying, Oursler remembered standing by her bedside. Deep in pain, her old hands were knotted together in a desperate clutch. “Poor old woman,” he thought. “What had she to be thankful for now?” Just then, she opened her eyes and looked at him and said, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for such fine friends.”
Dr. Westerhoff believes we can all learn much from Anna, who viewed life as a gift. “Taking nothing for granted, demanding nothing as her due, she recognized that we come into this world with nothing, we go out with nothing, and in between we are given all we have.”
While the busyness, responsibilities, and news of the day can easily obstruct our view, none of us has to look very far to find a reason to be thankful. Living with an attitude of thankfulness is honoring to God, good for the soul, and infectious.
What are you thankful for? Try making a list of ten things—the first ten that come to mind. Then give Anna’s prayer a try: “Much obliged, dear Lord. Much Obliged.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
By Matt Bell
Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.