Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Language of Thanksgiving

sink, sank
drink, drank
think, thank

If you look in a big dictionary you’ll find that “think” and “thank” come from the same root. "(In German, "Danke" is "Thanks!" and "Gedanke" is "a thought.")

The French word for “thankful” is “reconnaissant,” which is simply a form of the verb reconnaitre, “to recognize.”

There is a lot of wisdom here: if you don’t think about things but just take everything around you for granted, you’ll have no reason to thank anyone. But once you recognize that everything in your life is a gift, you are automatically going to be thankful (at least if you say it in French!).

The day before Thanksgiving I had my high school sophomores reflect in their journals. One of the points for reflection was “Name some things for which you might not usually remember to thank God.” One fifteen-year old surprised his classmates with “I give thanks for the suffering in my life!” Although he was born in Africa, he had a good feel for the Jewish custom of blessing God not just for the good things that come our way but also for the “bad.” It’s a way of admitting to ourselves that God is wiser than we are, and that what seems “bad” to us is ultimately meant to turn into a gift and a blessing.

So there I was sitting on my high stool in front of the class (not the recommended posture when teaching sophomores) because my back was really hurting despite six painful spinal injections two days before. And Obinna comes out with his “I give thanks for the suffering in my life!”

His reflection has become a challenging theme for my own Thanksgiving meditation, urging me

- to thank God Jewish style for the pain and discouragement,

- to keep trying to “recognize” French style the gift in the experience so that I can be even more reconnaissant, grateful;

- and finally to keep thinking (English and German style) about my suffering so that I'll find it easier to start thanking God for this mysterious gift of pain.

May you always keep thinking and thanking!

........Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

  1. Father Albert as a former student of yours (many, many years ago) I didn't recognize what you and your brothers intentions were for me and my classmates. It took me awhile, but eventually I did. Thank you and the Benedictine community for what you do for the students and community of Newark.