In her book The Gift of Thanks, Margaret Visser uses the image of soil to convey the power of gratitude. She says that a thankful disposition is like good soil. In fact, in many European languages, poor soil is called “ungrateful.” “Ungrateful” soil has been drained of its power to give life to the seed that is sown in it. It is dry and devoid of the nutrients that cause seeds to grow and flourish.
But good soil, or “grateful” soil holds moisture and is rich in nutrients and causes the seed to thrive. Then the seed gives back to the planter a plentiful harvest. Good soil is reciprocal. It receives but it also gives back.
A grateful heart is like that. When we are thankful, we give life to others by being kind and generous. We feel blessed and so we want to bless others with the bounty with which God has blessed us. We are free with our compliments because we ourselves have been affirmed by others. We love others because we are full of God’s love.
Or, we may be ungrateful which causes us to take but not to give. We don’t feel blessed and so we can’t bless others. Life withers around us as it does in bad soil.
We have the freedom to choose to be grateful or not. Gratitude doesn’t just happen. Like good soil, it needs to be cultivated. Farmers know the importance of cultivating good soil. They till up the soil so that it may take in oxygen. Farmers plant nutrient-rich crops in it to replenish its vitality. Just leaving it alone does nothing for the soil. They must proactively enrich it.
So, we must cultivate gratitude in ourselves. We must see the goodness that God has poured into our lives and say thanks. We must appreciate other people and what they have given to us. We must look around and see by contrast how much better off we are than many others. We must see life always as half full and not half empty. Then, joy comes as gratitude gradually takes hold. Life takes on a new brightness. We see with new eyes how good it is to be alive in God’s world.
This Thanksgiving let us “cultivate” gratitude. To do so is its own reward, for a grateful heart is a happy heart. And who doesn’t want to be happy?
“Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” --I Thessalonians 5:18
--Rev. Ken Shick, Interim Pastor