Feature: Attitude of Gratitude

November is the ideal time to consider how to maintain an attitude of gratitude in spite of life’s ups and downs all year long.

It’s fairly easy to be thankful for friends, family and food at this time of year. Fall can also provide the opportunity to make gratefulness an intentional way of life beyond Thanksgiving. How can we maintain an attitude of gratitude in the midst of disaster and random violent tragedies? How can we teach and model this concept? How can we put gratitude in action?

Gratitude is what prompts us to pull wet carpet out of a neighbor’s home, hand a hamburger out the window to a homeless person, or share from our finances when we learn of a need. By helping others, we emotionally reboot their day, as well as our own.

Keeping it in Perspective

As the materialistic season of Christmas ramps up, Thanksgiving provides a key opportunity for pastors, parents and teachers to revisit the Biblical references to a thankful heart and the practical ways to reinforce these life-changing principles on a daily basis:

 Encourage generosity

 Insist on a verbal “thank you’” as well as handwritten notes of appreciation

 Work gratitude into daily conversations

 Keep your eyes open for a need your family or students can help with

 Acknowledge God as the source of blessings

 Have youngsters and young adults pitch in when they want something

Finding teachable moments with children might start with a “thank you” jar where they can name their blessings and add to them over time. There are strong payoffs to grateful adults as well. Experts attribute a thankful mindset and lifestyle to better relationships and increased optimism, empathy and hope.

Being Grateful in Hard Times

Hurricane Harvey has given dozens of United Methodist clergy the opportunity to be on the receiving end of help when they are typically the ones providing help to others. Calamity can challenge gratefulness and it can accentuate a thankful heart, as was the case with Christy Littleton, spouse of James Littleton, the associate pastor of Dickinson FUMC. When he was stranded and had to walk three miles in rising waters, it was the longest 12 hours of her life. Once they were finally reunited, she shared on Facebook, “The most important thing is that we are together, and I am so, so thankful.”

This year, not only did Rev. Jim Love, associate pastor of Bellaire UMC, deal with a flooded parsonage, but also widespread flooding that devastated the church and many homes of its members. Seeing others help his family and others at a time many would otherwise be tempted to focus on their own needs, he says, “It fills my heart with joy, because God’s love knows no bounds.”

It would seem particularly hard to be grateful if the floodwaters devastated your historic church, built in 1839, but Rev. Mary Shotwell, St. Mary’s UMC, has seen God at work in countless ways. “Every week, I’m checking on people who are living in little storage houses in their backyards, and we are all determined to keep on keeping on,” she says. “The community is working together in one accord,” adds Mary, “and as we wait on the Lord, we are welcoming teams to help us. I just learned we are getting an 18-wheeler of donated solid oak church pews when we get our structure restored, so, yes, God is so good.”

Sharing Blessings in Texas and Beyond

An impactful and easy way to show gratitude at this time of year is to share financial blessings using hashtag #Txgiveday (Giving Tuesday) on November 28, or by donating to www.txrecovers.org

“Giving Tuesday is a compelling reminder that long after our Thanksgiving celebrations are over, thousands of Texas flood victims will still not have much to celebrate,” says Bishop Scott Jones. “We will still need your gifts of money to support these families to help them rebuild their homes, and we are grateful to our connection for helping to make that possible.”