As a child, I had many reasons to love Thanksgiving. First, it marked the countdown to Christmas. That’s important for kids, who get confused by the concept of time. Telling a child, “It’s only six months until Christmas” is the same as telling the average American, “It’s only 57 kilometers to the next restroom.” You know it’s a measurement, but you can’t quite interpret it.

Six months is one-fourth of a 2-year-olds life. But the same six months is just 1/120 of a 60-year-old’s life. (If my calculations aren’t correct, please forgive me. I was sick the week my class learned fractions, and I have spent the rest of my life—actually 44/54 of my life—trying to catch up.)

I also loved Thanksgiving because it meant plenty of family fun. Aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone else came together to eat and play, eat and play—and eat. We always met at Aunt Vi’s because her house was the biggest. Secretly, I loved going there because she was the best cook in our family.

Aunt Vi lived in Minnesota with her husband, a wild man of sorts. He strapped us kids into his Jeep and took us “back-roading.” My brother, cousins and I didn’t count it a good ride until our brains were scrambled. We then spent the rest of the day recounting our near-death experiences.

Oh, those childhood memories! The further we distance ourselves from them, the sweeter they grow. I wonder if our children will have family memories like that, or will theirs only include watching televised football or playing computer games? The uniquely personal memories you pour into your child today become the lasting joys of tomorrow.

I also loved Thanksgiving for its mountains of food: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and a dozen different salads. In our family, someone always brought a new salad for the others to try. As a kid, though, I didn’t care about the salads or any of the other food at the front of the line. Instead, I peered far ahead, hoping to find a homemade chocolate pie with a voluminous meringue topping. I always feared my cousins would beat me to the end of the line and leave me with no pie, no meringue, no anything. I must confess that the habit of looking past the salads to the desserts continues today.

My wife’s family inspired a much better habit. At their Thanksgiving meals, everyone takes a turn expressing thanks. This begins as an awkward moment where we sit, eyes downcast, hoping somebody else will speak first. Once we get started, though, the mood changes to simple gratitude. As we reflect on everything God’s given us, we can’t help but give thanks.

Our modern-day world seems to have forgotten this art of reflection. We rarely stop our busy schedules to ponder God’s goodness. The Old Testament tells us the Israelites built altars to mark major events in their lives. Later, the sight of these altars prompted them to remember the great God they served. The altars reminded them to reflect, and the reflection reminded them to give thanks.

The New Testament shows us the importance of giving thanks, too:

“Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When He saw them, He said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? Then He said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”(Luke 17: 11-19)

The hated leper understood the depth of Jesus’ gift. He was a despised Samaritan, an outcast to society. His leprosy made him an outcast of the outcasts. This man understood the depth of God’s work far better than the other nine. And in that understanding, he found a second miracle.

This little saying I found somewhere sums up what I’m trying to say:

One returned. Nine went on.
One was grateful. Nine were not.
One man found forgiveness. Nine did not.
One man got two miracles. Nine got one.
Gratitude is the believer’s highest duty. Ingratitude is the leprosy of the soul. Reflect, remember and become truly grateful for everything God has done. And if you watch, you’ll discover another miracle.
Happy Thanksgiving, my extended family!

Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)