Everything is a gift

It’s so easy to take things for granted.

The president of my college once started a talk by asking us to write down all the things for which we were thankful. I remember writing down those things that came immediately to mind: my family, my faith, my friends and the like. After we had compiled our lists, he asked us to imagine that we actually possessed only the things that we had listed. At this point the inadequacy of my list became incredibly apparent: there were so many things I had left off the list that I could not live without. I hadn’t written essential things such as oxygen, my heart or water. The president’s point was made — everything that we have and everything that we are is a gift given to us from God above, and yet we so often take it all for granted. In the face of such an incredible gift, there is only one appropriate response: gratitude.

The Oxford dictionary states that gratitude is the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Note that there are two elements involved in expressing gratitude. First, we need to show appreciation for the gift that was given by graciously accepting the gift and cherishing it. An example near to my heart is my sister and the beanbag chair I gave her for her ninth birthday. That night, my mom called me up to my sister’s room, where Chrissy was fast asleep on the beanbag chair. She had put it on top of her bed, appreciating the gift so much that she had gone to sleep on it. It made my day. My sister had shown me her gratitude for the gift and yet didn’t have to say a word. 

The second element in expressing gratitude is to return kindness. When someone gives you something, they are implicitly saying, “You are worth a gift.” Gratitude is expressed by reciprocating and thereby demonstrating to that person that they are valued, and that you are even more thankful to have them in your life than you are to have their gift. Returning kindness can be done in so many ways, but the more unique the way, the more it testifies to the uniqueness of the other person. A thoughtful act of kindness shows that the other person is worth thinking about.

As we know, all we have and all we are comes to us as a gift from God, and we should always approach him with a profound sense of gratitude. Applying the two elements of thankfulness, we first need to appreciate the gift that he has given us. This means noticing the many things we have for which we ought to be thankful, just as the president of my college was reminding us to do. These blessings that God has bestowed on us communicate just how incredibly much he thinks we are worth, as he went even so far as to give his only begotten Son that we might have life to the fullest. In giving us Christ, the Father has given us everything. Just as God has shown us that we are worth everything to him, we too need to show him that He is worth everything to us. Our response of gratitude demands nothing less than our whole hearts and our very lives.

Reuwer, who is from St. William of York Church in Stafford, is in his first year of theology studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018