A Texan Gives Thanks
Of the human qualities gratitude is chief among them. It is the seedbed from which the fruit of happiness and contentment grow—whether you are chewing on Saturday steak or slurping on Sunday soup.
Derrick G. Jeter
Amidst the skyscrapers of downtown Dallas sits a spiral chapel. Within and away from the noise of the street and the glare of reflected light off glass buildings the spiral ceiling of the chapel floods with refracted light from blue, green, yellow, orange, and red stained glass. Aptly named the “Glory Window” the spiraling glass elevates earthward thoughts heavenward. And for a few moments the storm-battered soul is at rest.
Let heaven fill your thoughts and not the things of his world. So the Bible says. But we who are made of spittle and soil struggle to lift our minds from the muck and mire of the ordinary. The world and its concerns press hard and fall heavy; like children and dogs they demand our attention and time. And so, like beasts we spend our days gazing downward, grazing from one clump of grass to another—mindless to where we have been, where we are, or where we are going.
Then we bump into Thanksgiving—unannounced with no fixed date on the calendar, unassuming with no gifts received or given, unaccompanied with no songs of celebration. Thanksgiving. Struck between jack-o-lanterns and Jingle Bells. It is the quiet and contemplative holiday . . . and the palliative we need.
Thanksgiving is a corrective lens. It turns our downward and inward stare upward and outward. It is the one holiday that offers us an opportunity to look back and acknowledge the blessings we have enjoyed, to look around and appreciate the blessings we do enjoy, to look forward and anticipate the blessings we will enjoy. It is the one holiday that encourages us to pause, look up, and adore the Bestower of blessings—the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
The foundation that built and maintains Thanks-Giving Square, the track of Dallas land on which the spiral chapel sits, fittingly asserts: “To live a life of gratitude is to live a life of virtue. We believe people with a grateful spirit who aspire to live a virtuous life and demonstrate goodwill will find happiness and contentment.”
Happiness and contentment are not beastly virtues; they are gracely virtues, practiced by those who have been touched by grace. All of us have been touched by grace, but not all of us are happy and content. In the cold chill of our everydayness we forget the warmth of grace . . . until Thanksgiving. Then we remember grace abundant, poured over our lives making it impossible to be grateful and grumble. Gratitude affects your face. It is difficult to say “Thank you” through clinched teeth. No one can smile and scowl at the same time.
In Texas we say, “I’m lucky to be an American, but I’m blessed to be a Texan.” The truth of the matter is, it is a blessing—an act of grace—to be an American and a Texan. So on this Thanksgiving I will throw my hat over the windmill. I will smile and give thanks because I have many things to be thankful for—and so do you.