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On Faith: Cultivate a sense of gratitude

Here we are in the midst of the fall-winter transition.

In the church, we have celebrated All Saints Day, where we remember our beloved relatives and friends who have died, especially over the past year, and give thanks for the blessings that they have been in our lives.

We are a couple weeks away from our Thanksgiving Day celebrations — a national holiday calling us to give thanks for the blessings we have received.

We celebrate with parades, football, family gatherings, overeating and in the midst of it all, reflecting on all the reasons we have to give thanks.

Our focus on these things at this time of the year may come more from our historical roots as an agrarian society where the rhythms of life were determined by the growing and harvest cycle.

Springtime was filled with the work of tilling and planting. The summer was spent nurturing crops and waiting in anticipation for sunshine and rains to make the crops grow.

These are the days that would be postharvest, the time to recount the blessings of the harvest and all that we have received and to give thanks.

So we spend this time in reflection about all that we have been blessed with. We find ourselves filled with "thanks." It is about cultivating a sense of gratitude. It is about being grateful for a wide variety blessings and expressing our gratitude.

As I spend time in reflection about the blessings that I have received, I find that there is very little on my list that would qualify as "things" or possessions. I realize that most of the blessings are relational or situational. On my list are family relationships, friends, co-workers, colleagues, our community, the beauty of living in this part of God's creation, the work that I have the privilege to be able to do and the people who share in that work because of their passions, talents and gifts.

I am thankful for those in our community who because of their gifts, talents and callings help make all of our lives better; those who volunteer to serve on the ambulance crew, our rescue squad or on our fire department; those who serve to keep us safe in their work with the state patrol, our county sheriff's office or our city police department; and those who volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels, work at "Neighbor to Neighbor" and our local food shelves, giving of their time to make a difference.

I am thankful for those who work in our schools — teachers, administrators, staff, coaches, volunteers and school board members, all of whom strive to instill a love for learning in our children and youth.

I know that my list goes on. The question that I want to raise is, as you engage in your reflection in this season of gratitude, what is on your list(s) for which you are thankful? Frankly, this is an exercise that we should engage in daily.

It is important that we take time to reflect upon those things that we are thankful for in our daily lives.

I also encourage you to do more than just make a list. I encourage you to pick a few of the folks who are on your list and find a way to express your thankfulness directly to them. Maybe write a note of thanks to them, or even tell them in person, how you are thankful for them.

It is a simple gesture — but it is so very important — that we give thanks.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.