Our Montana Logging and Ballet Company performed years ago at the 6000-member St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. I remember it because three of us stayed over until Sunday to hear Rev. Kent Millard, one of the great preachers of our denomination. His powerful sermon was on the miracle of thanks.
Kent (he insisted we call him that) said thanks is at the heart of good religion. He gave statistics about people who have an attitude of gratitude, and how they have fewer heart attacks, fewer divorces, live longer and many other positive correlations that I can’t remember. Maybe if I were more grateful my memory would be better. Kent summed up his sermon this way: “Gratefulness Brings Great Fullness.”
At Thanksgiving, our family has a tradition of having everyone tell at least one thing for which they are thankful. I won’t have time this year to mention all my list — Pat the love of my life, the wonderful children, grandchildren, family, great friends, and fifty more every-year items, following by other topics unique to this year.
I am thankful to have known and loved some political and spiritual giants who have passed away this year — Mignon Waterman, Bob Ream, Sue Bartlett, Dorothy Eck, and, just this week, Laurie Skillman. Laurie was not as famous or politically active as the first four, but was a spiritual person who belongs in their class as great and giving human beings. I am grateful to have known them all, even though I don’t live up to the role models they set.
I trust you, dear reader, will be making your own gratitude list and meditating on it. In addition to me and Pat starting on ours, I’m also thinking about being grateful for those who live lives of great fullness to show us how it is done. If I had to name the most grateful person I have ever known, it would be our mother. Dorothy Harper is 95, but never has a single day go by that she doesn’t express her thanks to God and family and friends for all her blessings.
She is blessed to live at Touchmark with its wonderful staff and space just right for her. She is blessed to live in Helena and go St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. She is blessed to have her four remaining children and their spouses living in Helena (she has reason to be grateful for that — we her children will very likely never have any of our children live in the same town with us because of the vocations they are pursuing.)
Mom just had lunch with us. Pat made a terrific fall casserole meal with blueberry buckle for dessert, so it was appropriate for Mom to be grateful for that. But she probably mentioned 10 or 15 times other things for which she was grateful or the reasons for her being so lucky.
Several staff members at Touchmark have said that others there always want to have our mother sit at their table at meals, because she is always so positive. Always. And that’s how it has always been. Our father, now deceased, was in the spotlight because he was a great preacher, a truly funny human being both as a speaker and an author, and a person who made a difference in people’s lives. There is a reason that the gym at Helena High is named “Harper Court.” Our mother stayed out of the limelight, even though she was the only one in the family who wrote professionally (radio scripts for national inspirational radio shows), and the only one in the family who won a national oratory contest in college, twice.
Now that Dad is gone, we are realizing even more how powerful and how funny our mother is, and what a constant positive force she is in our lives, like a North Star, only warmer. Call her a North Sun. As she prayed over our meal this noon, she said, “Help us to be grateful for all our blessings and for the chance to do good for others.” Gratitude is contagious and only leads to good things in the lives of us and those around us. Our mother is contagious.
So who are your role models for living lives of service and gratitude? And what are you doing to become more like them? Have a grateful Thanksgiving.