Living a life of gratitude nurtures the soul, and quite frankly, it’s the right way to live. Thankfulness is a virtue wise adults want to instill in their children, and they start working on this from the moment their babies open their toothless mouths. How many times have you heard a parent instruct Junior: “Say ‘Thank you’!” ? And the mumbling baby responds with something like: “Gank you!”
And when children grow a little bit bigger and learn how to hold a pencil, their parents give them friendly (or stern) reminders after birthdays and Christmases: “Don’t forget your thank-you notes!” or, “You’re not leaving this house until all your thank-you notes are done!”
But does all of this tutelage sink in? We parents can only hope and pray.
When I was in high school I worked in Door County, Wisconsin one summer at a candy store called “Uncle Tom’s.” The owner resembled a skinny Santa Claus and the kids loved him. They knew that if they recited, “Gratitude is attitude!” he would give them a free bag of popcorn. He wanted to teach youngsters about the importance of giving thanks because, he explained, it’s the only way we can really be happy. Uncle Tom ran out of popcorn every day because his lesson was such a huge hit.
G.K. Chesterton stated, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Today I wanted to share a little story with you about a mother and son who must experience this ‘happiness doubled by wonder’ of which Chesterton spoke. Their expression of thankfulness illustrates the power of gratitude. It also shows that some parents are great teachers by their instruction and modeling, and that kids sometimes do ‘get it.’
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Each year, on her son’s birthday, a mother stops by Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM) to thank them for helping her through an abortion temptation over 20 years ago. She brings a thank-you note and a red rose. Some years her son, now a young man, accompanies her, and this past year for the first time, he appeared in full military uniform.
“She gushes out thank yous,” said Brian Gibson, executive director of the ministry.
When I asked Brian if the young man looks like he’s being dragged there against his will by his mother, he stated enthusiastically, “No, the son expresses his gratitude just as much as Mom. In fact, he’s proud and delighted to be there.” (This young man deserves some popcorn!)
Just thinking about this beautiful scenario sends shivers up my spine. Quite often pro-life work can be thankless, and the thought of someone so full of gratitude, gives me hope. I have a feeling that this gentleman is a true soldier for the unborn and all defenseless people. He and his mother are living precisely how Blessed John Paul II suggests in Evangelium Vitae:
“We are all called to express wonder and gratitude for the gift of life and to welcome, savor and share the Gospel of Life.” (#84)
Gratitude is Attitude
Brian Gibson told me, “Being thanked from time to time is not necessary, but it keeps us going. It bolsters us to no end and helps us so greatly.”
Through the work of Pro-Life Action Ministries, more than 2,600 babies have been saved from abortion over the last 30 years. And, yes, Brian and his staff have received other thank yous. “Being thanked reminds us of why we’re in this ministry. It keeps us going,” he said.
So far this year, PLAM has directly helped 57 mothers embrace life. It is the oldest and most comprehensive sidewalk counseling organization in America, and their offices are right here in St. Paul (visit them at http://www.plam.org).
When recalling his visits from the mother and her son, Brian told me, “Nothing is so fulfilling as to have the witness of the lives we have helped to save.” And when I thanked him for his part in saving all those babies he responded, “I can’t take the credit, I’m just a ball player.”
To this I say, “Play ball!”