This week in my Theology classes, I asked my students to share some of the things for which they were thankful. Many shared that they were grateful for family, friends, and food. But I was particularly struck by a freshman girl who explained why her gratitude for family was so full. Every year, her and her siblings would forgo gifts received at Christmas in order to give, what would have been their presents, to the children in a local orphanage. She described the event as something ordinary and normal, but the joy and gratitude on her face while recounting this family tradition was clearly evident.
For over a week, students were planning, calculating, and couponing in their House Communities for a Thanksgiving menu and meal for families in need. On Monday, I brought 14 students to Schnucks to compete in the annual shopping challenge. It was quite entertaining to witness the mental math of turkey price by weight and the competitive dash through the aisles. The students brought their baskets of food, menus, and Thanksgiving cards to the Family Community Resource Center in Granite City. I was moved by the warm reception and gratitude of the staff as the students dropped off their gifts. How little was given on our part, and yet such joy and delight from those who received.
In being prompted to think of things for which I am thankful, it is sometimes a struggle to go beyond the standard response. I recognize that I have already taken for granted the many gifts I have received. But in the midst of my experience this week of giving to those in my local community, I was moved to gratitude. Giving allowed me to know certainty of blessing in my own life - a united family even though separated by hundreds of miles, the providential place of my employment, and the privilege to share in the growing of young hearts and minds. My growing desire to be an instrument of God’s love in this world reminds me of a familiar prayer,
“O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”