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Whenever I travel to a country whose language is different than my native tongue, the one phrase I make sure I know before I go, is “thank you.” The reason I do this is because as a girl I was taught that showing appreciation for others is vitally important and saying thank you, even for small gestures of kindness or goodwill, is a must.

As a 19-year-old studying in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania I quickly learned how to say asante, adding sana when I was extremely grateful. When I moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador three years later, gracias became my go-to word. And in just a few weeks I will be traveling to Stockholm, Sweden with my mother and sister for the festival of Santa Lucia and you can bet I am practicing my tack!

During November in the United States, it seems everywhere I turn there are reminders to give thanks and be grateful. The words “thankful” and “grateful” are splashed on lawn signs and welcome mats, dishtowels and coasters, t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Many churches and not-for-profits hold their annual fundraising campaigns and events in November as a way of connecting people’s gratitude with their monetary gifts of support. And none of this is a bad thing. I am certainly not passing judgement (in fact if you are reading this and would like to give a monetary gift to AHCC because you are grateful for or have been touched by the ministries of this church – please and thank you).

What I would love, however, is for this season of gratitude to become a way of life. Not something we focus on just for the month of November, but a way of “being” in the world. When I was living in Ecuador I came to understand the phrase muchas gracias as more than just a polite response. I came to understand it as an act of extending and receiving grace.

  • It was directions from a stranger when I was lost
  • It was a smile and a hug when I was feeling homesick
  • It was a tissue and a listening ear when life got particularly confusing
  • It was a hammock when I needed rest, and food when I needed sustenance

In the same way, I invite you to reflect on the ways you have either extended or received grace. Where has grace shown up in your life and how did you respond? Beloveds, as we prepare to give thanks for the many blessings of our lives, may we continue to look for ways to make Thanksgiving a way of being, not just in November, but every month and season of our lives.

May the immense grace and peace of our God be with you and your beloveds, and may you know how grateful I am for who you are in this world. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rev. Erica Thompson