Thanksgiving: Shaping the Heart of Gratitude

As a kid, it seemed like every Thanksgiving, our teachers would show us students how to trace our hands and draw a turkey. When we were finished, we’d sit in a circle, proudly hold-up our drawings and then name something for which we were thankful. Almost always we gave answers like a new hockey stick or a bike or a big Thanksgiving dinner. All good stuff to a kid, of course, but just “stuff” none the less. And even though our Thanksgiving list sometimes sounded a lot like the previous year’s Christmas wish-list every one of us had something we were thankful for. Everyone except Brian.

Brian was one of my closest friends. He was very poor. Even a little sad. “Poor in spirit,” some might say. I lived in a lovely two floor house; he lived in a two bedroom apartment. I had two loving parents and two great older brothers; his parents were divorced and, tragically, his oldest brother was killed in a car accident. I remember the story of the accident plastered across the front page of our local newspaper, complete with a photo of Brian’s brother pinned inside the car. Brian’s personal family tragedy was publically laid-out for the whole community to see and talk about.

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