“We should devote 364 days a year to being thankful and set aside only one day for grumbling and complaining.”
Fulton Ousler (1893-1952) was a journalist, author of many novels (including The Greatest Story Ever Told), and editor of the Reader’s Digest. In one of his books he wrote about Anna, born into slavery in Maryland, who as an old woman worked as a maid in the Oursler home when Fulton was a boy.
Oursler remembered mealtimes with Anna. She’d always begin by folding her hard, old black hands and praying, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.”
“What’s vittles?” he once asked.
“Vittles is whatever I have to eat,” Anna replied.
“But Anna,” he pointed out, “you’d probably get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.”
“Sure,” she responded, “but it makes everything taste better to be thankful.”
“You know,” she said, “an old preacher taught me to play a game about being thankful– and the game is to just always be looking for things to be thankful for. You don’t know how many of them you pass right by unless you go looking for them. Take this morning for instance. I wake up and I lay there wondering what I got to be thankful for now. With my husband dead and having to work every day, I couldn’t think of anything. What must the good Lord think of me, His child? But the honest truth is I just could not think of a single thing to thank Him for. Then, my daughter opened the bedroom door, and the smell of coffee came from the kitchen. Much obliged, dear Lord, I said, for the coffee and a daughter to have it ready for an old woman when she wakes up.
“Now, for a while I have to do housework. It’s hard to find anything to thank God for in housework. But when I dust the mantelpiece, there is Little Boy Blue. I’ve had that little china boy for many years. I was a slave when I got it as my one Christmas present. I love that little boy. Much obliged, dear Lord, for Little Boy Blue.
“Almost everything I dust reminds me of something– even the pictures that hang on our cracked, unpainted wall. It’s like a visit with my family who are all gone. They look at me, and I look at them, and there are so many happy things to remember. Much obliged, dear Lord, for my memory. Then, I go for a walk downtown to buy a loaf of bread and some cheese for dinner. I look in all the windows, and see so many pretty things.”
Ousler commented, “But Anna, you can’t buy them. You have no money.”
“Oh, but I can pretend. I think of how your ma and sister would look in those dresses, and I have a lot of fun. Much obliged, dear Lord, for playing in my mind. It’s a kind of happiness.
“Once I got caught in the rain,” she said, “and it was fun for me. I’ve always heard about rich people who take showers instead of baths, but I never had one. But that day I did. You know, God is just giving Heaven away to people all day long. I’ve been to the park and seen the gardens, but I like the old bush in my back yard better. One rose will fill you with all the sweetness you can stand.”
Oursler finished the story. “Anna taught me a great deal about life. I’ll never forget when word came to me that Anna was dying. I remember taking a cab over to her place and standing by her bedside. She was in deep pain and her hard old hands were knotted together in a desperate clutch. Poor old woman, I thought. What did she have to be thankful for now? She opened her eyes and looked at me. ‘Much obliged, dear Lord, for such a fine friend who comes to see me when I’m dying.’ She never spoke again, except in my heart, but there she speaks to me every day– and I’m much obliged, dear Lord, for that.”
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven.
–Milton, Paradise Lost
Happiness is not created by what happens to us, but by our response to each happening.
Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise him for putting roses among thorns.
One can alter one’s life by altering one’s attitude. Gratitude is the key.
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws of kings can cause or cure!
Still to ourselves in every place consigned,
Our own felicity we make or find.
–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 9:1 — I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I Corinthians 15:56-57 — The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“A single thankful thought toward heaven is the most perfect of all prayers.”
–Gotthold Lessing, German author (1729-1781)
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.