Give me a grateful heart

We are beginning to enter into a time of hurriedness, a time when all of a sudden we realize that we are knee deep into the holidays and drowning fast. Yet Thanksgiving begs us to slow down, to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives, to look around and truly appreciate all that is important to us. 

Next week many of us will gather with family and friends, to enjoy some fellowship and give thanks. This is the time of year in which we are asked to reflect on all that we have accomplished, and to be grateful for the bounty of our harvest. We are asked to share this bounty with others, and so we open our homes and hearts to those we love and care for, coming together in celebration of all that is good in our lives. 

At this time, we must also keep in mind that so many will not enjoy good company, will go without, and feel as if they have very little to be thankful for. You and I cannot help everyone who is in need or alone at this time, but we can help someone we know. Is there an elderly neighbor whose family lives far away or has no one left? Is there a friend or co-worker who has nowhere to go and may face the holiday alone? Is there someone who has suffered a loss and feels that the holiday really does not matter or there is nothing left to be thankful for? We may not be able to change the world, but we can make it a little less lonely for someone near, we can change their immediate world. 

When we reach out to others, when we go outside our comfort zone to help another, what we gain can never be measured. It is the small acts of kindness and compassion that we know can never be repaid that yield the biggest bounties; it is these gestures that warm our hearts, giving us the strength and courage to go on when we ourselves feel burdened or alone. 

There are a couple of songs that always come to mind during this time of year, one is “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” by Henry Smith. This song begs us to look at life with a “grateful heart” which allows us to see the world and everyone around us through the lens of love. To see each other and all of God’s creation as truly a gift, and to understand that so many blessings come into our lives on a daily basis, even when darkness has set in. 

Another is “Thankful” by Josh Groban, he too dares us to look beyond ourselves and “see the joy that surrounds us.” We are reminded in the song that “even though the world needs so much more, there is so much to be grateful for.” The events of this past week, reminds us of how true these words are, but yet with all that is so tragically wrong around us, there is so much beauty and blessing.  Even though there is so much sadness around the events that have transpired, we can be grateful for all those who responded, who dared to risk it all for the love of neighbor, who put themselves aside to help another. Their unselfish response has made a difference to all those affected, both near and far. It is the big and small; the noticed and unnoticed acts of caring and compassion that we need to give thanks for. 

Both of these songs challenge us to see beyond ourselves, to see beyond the darkness and uncertainties of life and to live with joy and love, even in the midst of turmoil and difficulty. Even our prayer life needs to reflect a change of heart. Recently I heard a homilist speak of prayer and how we approach our prayer life. Many of us have a list of those we remember in prayer, often forgetting our own needs, putting all others first.  As he described what may be a normal part of so many of our prayer routines, he challenged the congregation to start with gratefulness first. To share with God all that has made us feel grateful that day, all that we appreciated or made a difference; to truly look at the gifts and blessings that came our way. By starting our prayer with gratefulness, we begin to learn how to live gratefully, how to see everything and everyone around us with heartfelt gratitude. 

This Thanksgiving, let us remember all that we are truly grateful for and may we learn to live our lives with grateful and thankful hearts. May the blessings we acknowledge at this time, fill us with love and hope. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

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