“I’m thankful for my mom and dad for taking caring of me.”
I’m grateful for food like fluffy mashed potatoes, juicy turkey and cranberry stuffing”.
“I’m thankful for God who blesses us and keeps our country safe.”
These were some of the excerpts from the “I’m Thankful…” letters that my fifth grade class wrote. Each year the class writes letters about what they are thankful for and glues them onto construction paper to create a placemat for their Thanksgiving table. For the most part, each student was quickly able to write down ideas such as their family, friends, pets and food. One of my autistic students, as usual, was having some difficulty thinking of what to write. After several minutes of trying to brainstorm with him, he emphatically responded “I’m thankful for everything!” I told him that was nice, but he needed specific details. I told him he couldn’t just write one sentence. It was supposed to be a three paragraph essay! After several failed attempts to assist him with elaborating on his idea, I finally decided to pick my battles. I allowed him to glue the letter to the construction paper and let him decorate his placemat due to time constraints.
As I was reading over the other student essays, I was impressed with their word choice, details and descriptive language. Almost all of them were able to write three paragraphs describing in detail all they were thankful for. I praised each of them for their effort while feeling frustrated over the battle I lost. After arriving home, I came across the Bible verse above and started to think about its message…
How can my friend who’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer for the third time be thankful in everything? How could a homeless person without any food or shelter this Thanksgiving be thankful in everything? How can families who lost a loved one this past year be thankful in everything? Am I supposed to be thankful for the many frustrations I have been feeling this year as a teacher in my classroom?
My mind raced, as it usually does, and I tried to understand the truth of this message which I now received twice today. I searched the internet and came across this explanation from Charles Stanley, a Christian pastor from Atlanta:
“It didn’t say, ‘In everything give thanks when you feel like it’. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit. The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would never do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you. God made you for something far better: eternal and sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.”
I guess my autistic student did have the right Thanksgiving message after all…
LIFE LESSON: It is easy to be thankful when things are going well, but in life that may not always be the case. We all face seasons of disappointment, pain, heartache and suffering, but we are commanded to “be thankful in everything”. I’m reminded this Thanksgiving to not only be thankful for my family, friends, home and job, but for all the other unpleasant circumstances I face in life as well. In doing this, I now believe we honor God and open the door for His abundant blessings, encouragement and hope for the future.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18