The Virtue of Gratitude

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“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.”

This quote by gospel singer Amy Grant kind of summarizes what Thanksgiving is or ought to be. When Editor Emily suggested that thanksgiving could be a theme for this month’s issue of Anglican Life, I thought about this quote and began a process of asking myself what is there to be thankful for in this world at this time.

Over the last 22 years, I have encountered many generous Anglicans—far too many to mention in this column—who have left bequests in their wills for the church. I often had the opportunity to ask these donors why they were leaving something for their parish, the diocese, or the national church. Their response generally was— not for their financial benefits as one might think—but their firm belief in the mission of the church that sustained them and their families over the years. In other words, they believed in the mission of the church and they wanted that work to continue after they were gone.

For instance, in the past I have written about Dr. Grace Layman, a daughter of Fogo Island, who worked for Memorial University for many years. For Grace, her church and her university were important in her eyes and after she died, she left bequests for St. Philips Anglican Church and Memorial. That was her way of saying thanks.

Another case in point involved Ms Claudine Samson, originally from Flat Islands in Bonavista Bay, but she called the Cathedral Parish of St. Martin’s in Gander her spiritual home. Claudine contacted me early in my ministry and indicated she wanted to do something for her church. We worked out several scenarios and in the end, St. Martin’s benefitted greatly from the generosity of Claudine. I have often quoted Claudine because she told me one the reasons for giving included the case for support preached by her rector, the Rev’d John Watton. What a way to say thanks and a terrific example of thanksgiving!

There are many stories like these two individuals with whom I have had the privilege of working and helping. The church has indeed been blessed by their thanksgiving support of its mission. Recently I read an article about the late Dr. Jim Downey, a native son of Winterton, who graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland and went on to become president of two Canadian Universities. In the article, his daughter related that her father would look over her tax returns, not to see how much money she had made, but to see how much she had given to charity. Such was the legacy of this great Newfoundlander who appreciated the benefits of giving back to your community, or showing appreciation and thanksgiving.

In conclusion, in this Thanksgiving month of October, let us focus on the many blessings that have been bestowed on us. And, please keep in mind the words of Henri Nouwen:

“Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.”

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