Rudyard Kipling was a successful writer, leaving a sizable estate upon his death. A newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, ”Mr. Kipling, I read somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 a word.” Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, ”I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter cynically reached into his pocket, pulled out a $100 bill, gave it to Kipling and said, ”Here’s a $100 bill. Now you give me one of your $100 words.” Kipling looked at the $100 bill, took it, put it in his pocket, and said ”Thanks.” The word ”thanks” was certainly a $100 word then, and it is more like a million dollar word now, one that is too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, and too often forgotten.

When I was growing up, children were expected to write thank you notes for every gift. From the time I learned to write, “thank you” became a staple in my vocabulary. Sometimes notes were written for gifts I found to be wonderful, and sometimes they were written tongue-in-cheek for gifts under-appreciated, such as handkerchiefs! It was in my adult years that I came to understand the distinction between “thanks” and “gratitude.” Up into my early forties, I believed I had worked my way through college – with jobs on the Cape over summers and holidays along with four jobs in college. Based on the amount I worked, my truth was that “I worked my way through college” because my parents were unable to help with college expenses. I had my comeuppance the day I remembered my two aunts who provided funding for me each year, my father’s best friend who gave me a check toward tuition every semester, and the two scholarships over four years from the Federated Church of Orleans and the Eastern Star. Adding all those up, I realized that my earnings were meager in comparison! It was only when I remembered the generous persons in my life that I understood the meaning of gratitude, and I hold those faces close in my heart.

In the Harry Potter novels, there are characters called dementors – dark spirits – that come into a room and suck every bit of life, enthusiasm and hope out of all present. While the good news is that chocolate is the antidote, the dementors’ presence drags everyone down. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that there are a few dementors everywhere, those who seem ungrateful and angry with life and leave us sucked dry of enthusiasm and hope. While I suppose we should always carry a little chocolate, just in case, dementors remind us that gratitude is a much healthier quality to embody.

An article in Psychology Today listed some characteristics of grateful people, including (1) they feel a sense of abundance in their lives, (2) they appreciate the contributions of others to their well-being, (3) they recognize and enjoy life’s small pleasures and (4) they acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude.

As Thanksgiving grows near, gratitude is brought to the forefront of our minds. This season, let us all fill our hearts with gratitude for all the wonders, both big and small, that this life brings us.

-Chaplain Sparrow