I'm revisiting the idea of thanksgiving lists. A number cropped up on Facebook this year, and these lists of thankfulness are the major theme of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, the popular book featured at The Well a few Thanksgivings ago.
This spring, a “thankfulness journal” I had begun to keep in 2001 showed up on my desk. My daughter Anne and her husband, still waiting out the job search, had decided to offer me in-kind payment for room and board by repainting the interior of the house. Painting of necessity involves cleaning out and the journal had emerged from a pile of books and papers that had drifted into my back room, or what Anne called my "open air closet.”
The journal didn’t last long. I kept it for about ten days. Why did I stop? Did life get too hectic? Did I encounter something in life I couldn’t find the words to be grateful for? I’m not sure.
I’m inspired to begin again. Ann Voskamp’s book is no simplistic guide to keeping a list of thanks. Her list of “gifts” is the cord that holds her to life. Looking at the Greek, charis for grace and chara for joy, she finds them both in eucharisteo, thanksgiving, and asks, “Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?” Not avoiding the hard questions about giving thanks in all circumstances, she makes a compelling case for yes, our practice of thanksgiving is intimately tied to our experience of joy, and to a radically changed life.