In just a few hours families and often their friends will be gathering to share this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

The past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of thanksgiving. My first thought was that thanksgiving is really two words – thanks and giving. And sadly, I have a feeling that many of us are lacking in both areas.

On any given day, how many times do we remember to say thank you? Our gratitude should be as sincere and strong for the person who opens a door for us as it would be for the person who just paid off our mortgage.

Do we ever remember to thank family members for their kindnesses, or do we just take those acts for granted? How about co-workers? The clerk at the grocery store? Your pastor? God?

For a lot of people, giving to others is even harder than thanking others. I’ve heard many people say that they have worked hard for what they have and others should do the same. People can be generous with their money but stingy with their time. People can be lavish in their praise, but lacking in keeping promises. All of us are busy, many are living on fixed or tight incomes and some are physically limited in what they are able to do. But to paraphrase a quote I heard several years ago, maybe we can’t give everything, but everyone can give something. Maybe it is money. Maybe it is a box of groceries or a warm blanket. Maybe that something is as simple as a smile, a kind word, an ‘I’m thinking of you’ card or text message, a hug, a helping hand – or even a sincere thank you. Any one of those things can change a dreary day into a sunny day.

While thanking and giving to those around us is important, the real meaning of thanksgiving is thanking God for all he has given to us. That thanks should not be limited to when we might be in church or when we are repeating a simple prayer before a meal. Our thanks to God should be as spontaneous and frequent as are the blessings he showers on us every day.

The harder part is giving to God. After all, he already has everything and really doesn’t need us. But there are things that God really wants and we can give these to him: Love, honor, praise, obedience, time, thanksgiving.

Someone once said you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving. I think the same is true about thanksgiving. You can give without thanks, but it’s hard to say thanks without also wanting to give something back, especially to our Lord.

Thanks and giving – let’s begin now by giving thanks first to God and those near and dear to us, and then watch how easily every day can become a day of thanksgiving.

Thought for the week — Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

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