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By Susan Hines-Brigger

The Importance of Saying Thanks


Giving Thanks for God's Bounty
Giving Thanks Year-round
Family Time: For What Are You Thankful?
For Teens: Reaching Out to Others
For Kids: Expressing Your Thanks in Song

When my daughter, Madison, was beginning to talk, my husband, Mark, and I found ourselves frustrated that we couldn't get her to say "thank you." She easily caught on to using "please," "excuse me" and other expressions, so we were stumped as to why she didn't pick up "thank you."

One day when I was telling my friend about Mark's and my frustration, she looked at me very matter-of-factly and said, "Maybe you and Mark aren't saying 'thank you' enough. She's picking up what she hears the two of you saying."

I was stopped cold. She was right.

Giving Thanks for God's Bounty

This month, most of us will gather for Thanksgiving with family and friends to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received throughout the year.

Our current Thanksgiving Day customs have their roots in the Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, when the pilgrims celebrated a three-day feast with the Native Americans. The purpose of the celebration was to give thanks for God's bounty upon the pilgrims with their first harvest.

And so today we still gather around the table every year—probably not for three days—to give thanks for God's goodness throughout the year. But the unfortunate reality is that once the turkey is eaten and everyone has gone home, oftentimes our sense of gratitude is stored away with the decorations until next year.

But it shouldn't be that way. Giving thanks is something we should do every day.

Giving thanks is an integral part of our Catholic faith. The Scriptures are filled with passages urging us to give thanks for the gifts God has bestowed upon us—"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever" (Psalm 118:1).

Giving Thanks Year-round

The celebration of Thanksgiving is a perfect reminder and opportunity for all of us to stop and think about how often we say thanks for things throughout the year. Better yet, how often do we say thanks every day? Sometimes it's not enough—as Mark and I found out.

So did we ever get Madison to start saying "thank you"? Less than a month after talking to my friend, Mark and I began making more of an effort to say "thank you" ourselves. Maddie soon followed.

Next Month: Let There Be Peace On Earth

Family Time: For What Are You Thankful?

Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to say what you're thankful for. Every year at our Thanksgiving meal, my family goes around the table and everyone says something for which they're thankful. When we first started, it was a bit awkward, but now it's part of a tradition.

Hearing what each person is thankful for is a gift unto itself. I'll never forget the Thanksgiving shortly after my dad had emergency angioplasty. He said he was thankful just to be alive and there with all of us. Memories are made of such things.

What are you thankful for? Perhaps when your family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner this year, you can start a new tradition by asking everyone to say one thing they're thankful for. But don't let the tradition be forgotten until next Thanksgiving. Whenever the family gathers together, such as at dinner each evening, offer thanks for something good that has happened to each of you or something for which you're grateful.

Oh, and most important, don't forget to make the words "thank you" a standard in your vocabulary. It's amazing how easily those two little words can be overlooked. Send a thank-you card to someone who did something nice for you, say thanks when someone holds the door open for you, tell your kids or grandkids thank you when they surprise you by doing something thoughtful or even something you asked them to do.

For Teens: Reaching Out to Others

Express gratitude for all the blessings in your life by helping those who are less fortunate than yourself. Many people, due to circumstances such as age, illness or homelessness, may not have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. Therefore, you could extend your blessings to them by:

  • Volunteering to serve dinner at a local shelter.
  • Visiting a local nursing home.
  • Inviting a neighbor or someone you know is alone to your family's Thanksgiving celebration. (Make sure to check with an adult before extending the invitation.)
  • Visiting a local hospital. Often families are far away from home during their hospital stay.
  • Reaching out to a friend who is struggling. Remind him or her how grateful you are for the friendship you share.

  • For Kids: Expressing Your Thanks in Song

    When I was younger, we used to sing the song, "Thank You, Lord," from the album Hi God! by Carey Landry. Your parents or older brothers and sisters may remember this song.

    The first verse of the song says, "Thank you, Lord, for giving us life. Thank you, Lord, for giving us life. Thank you, Lord, for giving us life. Right where we are."

    Using that model, add the things that you are thankful for and sing the song for your family. Chances are they'll join along before too long.

    Check with your local library or religious-goods store to see if they carry Hi God!



    Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics or ideas you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at

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