"A grateful heart silences a complaining voice."

Bishop Emeritus Eugene Gerber, Diocese of Wichita

Next week we’ll gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to gratitude. Recently I had the opportunity to attend Mass at my hometown parish on the weekend of their inaugural stewardship ministry fair. There I heard a great homily about gratitude from a priest visiting from the diocese’s Office of Stewardship, Father John Lanzrath.

Father John started by sharing instances of society’s ingratitude. For example, he asked why people don’t say "thank you" anymore when a door is held open for them. He questioned when it became OK to cut people off in traffic, reflecting on the good ol’ days when drivers signaled a lane change, eased into traffic, then offered a wave of thanks to drivers who let them in.

We’ve all had similar experiences, and it raises the question: When did we become so ungrateful?

His message reminded me in my vocation of motherhood, I must strive to instill the virtue of gratitude in my children from an early age. It’s essential for me to lead by example in both word (I can never say "thank you" too often) and deed (a simple thank you card goes a long way).

Father John shared an exercise he referred to as Thank You Hour. During the week as things come up that he wants to thank people for, he scribbles a note and throws it in a folder. Once a week—every Tuesday at 1 p.m.—he retrieves the notes, grabs a stack of thank you cards and stamps, and writes a personal note of gratitude to each person (yes by hand, not by email or text).

Not only are the recipients happy to receive the cards, as the sender he benefits as well. In addition to the spiritual component, psychological research has shown that gratitude is an integral part of health, wholeness and well-being.

This Thanksgiving I plan to build on the momentum that will start with turkey, pumpkin pie, football, family and friends by considering ways to express gratitude, more frequently and more sincerely. It might include implementing my own Thank You Hour or simply waving more often to drivers who let me merge onto Denver’s crowded I-25 during rush hour.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS BELOW: Have you written or received a thank you note lately? Have you waved thanks to drivers who let you merge?

Copyright 2010 Julie Filby