By Rev. Fr. Tristan Jasper D. Laforteza
“There’s roughly 525,600 minutes in a year – that’s 86,400 seconds per day. How many of those do you use to give thanks to God?
It’s an old story1, so you probably heard of it before. A poor farmer saw a wounded crane and decided to help it and set it free. A few days passed; he found a beautiful woman waiting for him at home. They got married and she helped him get rich by weaving the most exquisite and intricate cloths that even the Emperor wanted a piece of.
However, the life with the mysterious woman is not without quirks. For one, she absolutely forbids him to go anywhere near her while she weaves. He must leave her inside a locked room with no windows and wait for her to come out with the cloth.
After some time, curiosity got the better of him and he decided to peek. He saw his wife transform into the crane he previously helped and was weaving the cloth using her own feathers. Unfortunately, his wife saw him peeking and, letting out an angry screech, went to the open window and flew away without looking back. Thus, the farmer became a wife-less, poor man again.
The story of the Grateful Crane teaches us not only to express gratitude for the kindness shown to us, but also to appreciate what we have for they might not stay with us forever.
So, how can we show our gratitude for everything that has been given to us? You can follow these three simple steps:
Step #1: THANK THE LORD, THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF YOUR EVERY BLESSING. I know a Christian Living Values Education teacher who often uses the acronym ACTS as a guide for praying. ACTS stand for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. That is, when praying, you need to start with adoration or praising the all-powerful God. This should be followed by confessing and asking forgiveness for sins, then giving thanks for all the blessings we received. Finally, we can ask for something to be granted.
When you pray, don’t just ask for material things. Remember, God is not a genie who would grant whatever our heart’s desire simply because you asked for it. Let us make it a habit to praise the Lord, ask for his forgiveness, and give thanks for everything he provided and everything that he’ll provide in the future. As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 urges us “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When is the last time that you give the Lord God thanks for the blessings you received?
Step #2: APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE. Contentment is a value that seems lost on today’s youth. After all, why settle on a completely functional, slightly used iPhone 8 when there is a much newer model, iPhone XS? Or why used your old laptop when your parents can buy you the New iPad?
They tend to look at their peers and covet what they have. They wanted to obtain the things that seems to bring happiness to other people. As children, they were taught to work hard, and they will surely get a reward. However, when this doesn’t work, they resort to praying and when they still don’t get what they want, they curse and blame God for the perceived unfairness of the situation.
It is just like what James 4:2-3 described: “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Whenever we feel jealousy or resentment towards people who owns the very things we wish to have, remember Ecclesiastes 5: 19-20: “Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.”
Life is too short to waste on pining for things that you don’t have. Instead, learn to appreciate and enjoy what you do have. When you are having a bad day or if things did not go as you planned, can you still find something worth being thankful for? Do you try hard to look at the brighter side of things?
Step #3: TEACH SOMEONE SOMETHING YOU KNOW AND HELP OTHERS TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. I know someone who used to attend this sociology class where all they do is debate on the principles and morality of characters in famous movies. One of the movies they discussed was Haley Joel Osment’s film, Pay It Forward2.
In the movie, Osment plays Trevor, a 7th grade student who started an ambitious project of networking good deeds – he will do favors for three different people (one that the recipient can’t do for himself alone) and each of them must ‘pay it forward’ by doing major favors for another set of three people, thus creating a branched tree of good deeds.
It seems like a crazy idea to apply in the real world, though. Our tendency when we receive favors is to pay it back so that we won’t be burden by the debt of gratitude. The concept of paying it forward not only asks the recipient to reach out a helping hand to everybody (including strangers), but it also expects those who did the favor to be selfless and not expect an instant reward in return for their kindness. In your opinion, is ‘paying it forward’ really better than ‘repaying debts’? Why or why not?
The truth is, it is hard to help those who never did anything to help us in the first place. It is hard to be generous to people you did not even know. But as Proverbs 11:24-25 says: “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.”
Do not hoard your talents, skills, or riches like a miser. Just like the Bible says, those who gives away what they have will always end up physically and spiritually richer than those who are overly cautious of sharing their blessings to other people.