• David McNitzky

Gratitude Lesson 5: Gratitude takes effort

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

While Diana Butler Bass was working on her book, Grateful, her husband gave her a purple baseball cap which said, “Make America Grateful Again.” In some ways as I have previously noted our nation does not seem to be particularly grateful. At least we have a national holiday called Thanksgiving coming up. However, I learned recently a little more about the proclamation which President Abraham Lincoln made on October 3,1863, calling for a national day of Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26,1863. He issued it in response to the Union victory at Gettysburg that July. We should note that Lincoln was not the first President to issue such a proclamation. In 1789 George Washington had called for a celebratory day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” By 1815 the practice had been eliminated by President Thomas Jefferson as inappropriate because of the separation of church and state. So no national Thanksgivings were held between 1815 and 1863. For thirty six years a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied to reinstate the national day of Thanksgiving. She was a magazine editor who also was the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1830. Her efforts paid off after a long struggle. Also interesting to me is that the usage of words like thanksgiving and gratitude peaked in American literature in 1820 and steadily declined until the year 2000 (Bass, p. 103). So we can see that for Americans gratitude and thanksgiving are typically an uphill battle.

It is the same in our personal lives. Developing gratitude takes a lifetime of practice says Bass. It will require more than wearing a hat or having a once a year holiday to become truly grateful people. I found some helpful practices in a book Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy:

1. Practice gratitude in prayer.

2. Gather with grateful people.

3. Look for examples of grateful people.

4. Live more simply.

It strikes me that the church can really help facilitate these four practices. We can help each other become more grateful.

Another helpful hint which I have found to work is to keep a gratitude list or journal. Some people do it with photos by taking pictures of things and people for which they are grateful. Review this list or collection frequently.

We can become more grateful and as that happens perhaps our country will become grateful again.

Let me close with this quote from a Ted Talk given by Brother David Steindl Rast: “I am not grateful because I am happy. I am happy because I am grateful.”

Wishing you much happiness,


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