Every good and perfect gift is from above… James 1:17
The Grace and Main community gathers to enjoy a meal together every Thursday evening. It’s a potluck affair. Those who can afford it bring food to share with those who cannot. It seems that no matter how many people show up to eat, we always have plenty to go around. And a fine time is had by all.
Two weeks ago a young man came to our dinner for the first time. He comes from a very poor family and is a first-year student at the local community college. He lost his eligibility for food stamps when he became a college student. When he came to our dinner the young man hadn’t had anything to eat for three days. A blessing had already been said over the food, but when he sat down with his plate, I noticed that the young man bowed his head and prayed again. Three days without eating yet he would not take a bite until he offered his own private prayer of thanks. That scene has replayed in my mind a lot over the past week.
I usually pray before I eat. It is customary in our culture to give thanks to God for our food. But how thankful am I really? Am I as thankful as I would be if I had been three days without a meal?
I spent part of the next day with a man who was truly thankful for a warm, dry place to sleep—because a couple of nights earlier he had slept outside in the cold rain. I am thankful for my home, but am I as thankful as he was for a dry tent in a safe place?
I’ve recently gotten to know a man who is thankful for continued strength as he enters a fourth month of sobriety after decades of alcoholism. I’m thankful for my health. But am I as thankful as I would be if I were battling addiction?
We can be sincerely thankful for our food, our homes and our health without having first experienced hunger, homeless and addiction. But we can also take the abundance in our lives for granted, in ways that we would not if those material comforts didn’t come so easily to us.
So I have challenged myself to try to be as thankful for God’s gifts in my life as I would be if I had been suffering without them. May I be as grateful for my next meal as I would be if I hadn’t eaten in three days. May I be as grateful for my warm bed as I would be if I had spent the previous night sleeping outside in the rain. May I be as thankful for my health as I would be if I had recently broken free of addiction.
And may we all remain mindful that our food, our homes and our health are good gifts from above, for which we should be very thankful.