A LIFE LESSON IN TRUE GRATITUDE
It was early in 1985, just a few months after I had graduated from seminary. I had moved to Santa Rosa, California with my family to start a new church on behalf of my denomination. As was my habit when I needed to write a term paper during my years in college and graduate school, I found myself gravitating to public locations where I could sit amidst the “white noise” of a mall or coffee shop to write my weekly sermons. One such place in Santa Rosa was the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, commonly known as “Snoopy’s Home Ice”.
On this particular day in November as I was sitting in the comfortable food court at the ice arena I had a chance encounter with the owner of the Ice Rink, the famous creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, Charles Schulz. He was one of the first truly “famous” people I had ever met! We had a pleasant conversation, focused especially on his now classic 1966 TV special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”, which was scheduled to air once again that evening.
In that wonderful cartoon special Charlie Brown discovers the true meaning of Thanksgiving. The “Peanuts” gang –Lucy, Linus, Pig Pen, Marci and Snoopy, all work to remind Charlie Brown that the pilgrims didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving out of the joy of their circumstances, but in spite of them. A genuine spirit of Thanksgiving is not dependent on what is going on around you…..it comes from the heart.
Someone has said, “It is not the happy people who are thankful; it’s the thankful people who are happy”. Like those early pilgrims, we can be truly thankful in our spirits, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in. Maintaining a heart of gratitude is one of best things we can do for ourselves or for those around us.
According to Cicero, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues”. The Biblical writers seems to echo those sentiments repeatedly. Grateful people are those who are not only happy, but those who seem to inherently understand the virtues held up as the pillars of the YMCA – love, respect, honesty, responsibility, service and faith!
I’ll never forget that chance encounter with Charles Schulz so many years ago. This Thanksgiving I hope we all can remember and emulate the attitude reflected by the Peanuts gang in “It’s A Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”