Gary Coker

Throughout the elementary schools of America students are reenacting the first Thanksgiving between the new settlers (Pilgrims) to America and the American Indian.  Each year this reenactment occurs and after the holiday we return to the regular curriculum. While the historical activity is open for discussion, the behavior of thanksgiving is in need of rehabilitation.

We all understand and appreciate the importance of gratitude.  In fact, this concept begins very early in life.  We teach our children to express gratitude when they receive something, they cherish, for example, candy or other ‘goodies’. “Now what do you say?” And the child learns to say “Thank you.”

In the book, “A Window on the Mountain,” Winston Pierce tells of his high school class reunion.  A group of the old classmates were reminiscing about things and persons they were grateful for.  One classmate mentioned that he was particularly thankful for Mrs. Wendt, for she more than anyone had introduced Tennyson and the beauty of poetry.  Acting on a suggestion, the man wrote a letter of appreciation to Mrs. Wendt and addressed it to the high school.  The note was forwarded and eventually found the old teacher.  About a month later the man received a response.  It was written in a feeble long hand and read as follows: “My dear Willie, I can’t tell you how much your letter meant to me.  I am now in my nineties, living alone in a small room cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind.  You will be interested to know that I taught school for forty years and yours is the first letter of appreciation I ever received.  It came on a blue, cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has for years.  Willie, you have made my day.”

Greg Anderson, in ‘Living Life on Purpose’, tells a story about a man whose wife had left him.  He was lonely, depressed and found no joy in living.  Each day he stopped at the same little diner for breakfast.  On this day, although there were several people in the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else.

In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting,  “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?”  The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, “Ok, sure honey, we can pray here.  will you say the prayer for us?”  And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, “bow your heads.”  Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down.  The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen.”

That prayer changed the entire atmosphere.  People began to talk with one another.  The waitress said, “we should do that every morning.”

Thanksgiving is more than a holiday.  It is a way of life. Even in the midst of our problems there is always something for which to be thankful.   The year 2020 has been a year of many ups and downs.  I cannot deny the reality of the problems that exist.  Just remember the change that occurred in the restaurant when the little girl said the prayer.   It is the will of God to give thanks. A cheerful heart is medicine for the soul.


Retired in 2008 after 40+ years in education/psychology as researcher, teacher, administrator and college professor.
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