By Norman Knight
Becky and I are involved with the music worship at our church. We sing in the choir, we play in the Crystal Ringers — the church bell choir — and on occasion we sing as a duo. On Sunday the two of us sang “Give Thanks,” which seemed appropriate for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It has one of those simple melodies that stays with you. Both of us had it playing in our heads for days before the service.
I would be going about my everyday business and find myself humming it. The music itself is fairly basic and the words are not complicated theology, but the song was stuck on repeat on my mental playlist.
A few days before Sunday, while driving down State Road 135 heading to our church in Nashville, the song was once again in my head. The lyrics essentially thank God for his greatest gift: sending His Son into our world. As I drove I gave and I continue to give thanks for that. Then I found myself listing some other things in my life for which I wished to give thanks. The more I thought about it, the more I realized such a list would be endless.
I gave thanks for family and friends, for the blessings of good health, and the blessings of a peaceful and safe life. I gave thanks for the indescribable beauty of the red sky as I glanced to the west. When I look at a sky I tell myself I am looking at a grand work of art that transforms itself moment by moment. Sometimes other things are clouding my mind and I forget to see it that way. I try to give thanks when I remember.
The bridge just north of Bean Blossom was smooth as I drove over it. I gave thanks that finally, after months of detours, the repairs were now completed. After I thought for a moment, I gave thanks for the state taxes that updated that particular bridge. I gave additional thanks for the workers who are now repairing another 135 bridge a couple of miles north of this spot which has resulted in another detour. I will be giving emphatic thanks when the highway repairs are finally over after this long delay.
When I was a teenager I decided to learn the guitar. From that decision I trace a winding line of life-changing events through the years which has led me to this moment: playing guitar accompaniment while Becky and I sing on Sunday. It can be a profound revelation to observe the steps marking how you arrive at a certain point. From the perspective of this present time each point on that line—which I may have experienced as it was happening as positive or negative — now seems to me a reason for giving thanks. And I do.
I understand that almost all the things I give thanks for are not “things” at all. Nearly all my thanks are for people and experiences. I suspect most people feel the same. And even when I consider some of the negative people and experiences in my life, I can convince myself — at least sometimes I can — that these also are worthy of thanks.
The song “Give Thanks” was written in 1978 by Henry Smith, a young out-of-work seminary graduate. He was trying to accept and deal with a diagnosis of a degenerative eye condition which eventually left him legally blind. Nevertheless, he took comfort in a verse from 2 Corinthians which inspired the song. A few years later it was recorded and has since been carried around the world. A simple song about giving thanks that has inspired so many.
As a young child I was taught there are two magic words: “please” and “thank you.” In the 12th century the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is, ‘Thank you,’ it will be enough.” Some advice is timeless.
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.