Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.
And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
As we celebrate this family feast of gratitude, a story surfaces. Three years ago, when giving retreats in Tanzania, one of the missionaries told the story of a man who was on a hunting trip in Africa. He awoke early one morning because he couldn’t sleep, so he grabbed his gun and went out in search of wild game in the jungle. He came across a couple of wild turkeys—the birds not the booze—and bagged them. He tied the turkeys to his belt.
On his way back to camp with his bounty, he sensed he was being followed. He stopped and pointed his rifle at the surrounding landscape until he saw an adolescent boy, trembling and obviously starving. Seeing the boy’s hunger, the hunter placed the gun on the ground, untied the turkeys from his belt, and approached the boy. The hunter placed the turkeys a few feet in front of the emaciated youth but the boy did not move. Gesturing for him to take the turkeys, the hunter turned to leave. When he looked over his shoulder, the boy was still standing in the same spot with outstretched hands, as if he were asking for something else.
“Go ahead, take the turkeys,” the hunter said. “I want you to have the turkeys.” But the boy did not move. He stood there waiting with outstretched and open hands. Not knowing what else to do, the hunter picked up the turkeys and placed them in the boy’s hands. The boy smiled and bowed in gratitude.
The missionary telling me this story said, “You see, the boy, famished as he was, could not take the turkeys and run away. Though he was desperate and hungry, he refused to take the birds. He waited until they were given to him. Only then could he receive them as a gift.”
We are a gifted people who have received many blessings from our generous God. With outstretched hands and open hearts, may we realize all is gift and always be grateful for the gifts we have received. As Pope Francis writes in his Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera, “The Jubilee now ends and the Holy Door is closed. But the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open.” During the Holy Year of Mercy Pope Francis would spend one Friday a month with a group or organization practicing a corporal work of mercy. “I was able to experience in a tangible way the goodness present in our world,” he writes. “Often it remains hidden, since it is a daily expressed in discreet and quiet gestures. Even if rarely publicized, many concrete acts of goodness and tenderness are shown to the weak and the vulnerable, to those most lonely and abandoned. Let us thank the Lord for these precious gifts that invite us to discover the joy of drawing near to human weakness and suffering.”
May God continue to bless you, your family and all those you serve each day in quiet and discreet gestures of tenderness and compassion. I am profoundly grateful for being in your great and gracious company! Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
With peace and gratitude,
Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.