Is there a difference between thankful and grateful? I'm sure some word wizard out there will give me the exact, true answer, but to me, it has always seemed that thanks was something you gave -- but gratitude was something you were expected to give. Kind of like the $5 you have to throw in on the boss's birthday gift, whether you want to or not.
In other words, there's a world of difference in a word of difference.
I don't want my children to be grateful for the unbelievable, countless, incredible, momentous, tremendous and horrendous sacrifices I have made on their behalf.
But would it kill them to be thankful?
We were a watching "Nature" Sunday night on the public television and I should really know better because it was about a wild animal raising her children and I know that at least one of the babies will get eaten by the end of the show and I'll bawl because that's what always happens. In this case, it was leopards, and, yes, one of the babies got eaten by the end of the show.
The mother leopard clung to her remaining child a year longer than normal, even bringing him food when he was more than old enough to hunt. But the minute she got sick, what did Sonny Boy do?
Marked his scent all over her territory, then took off.
That's gratitude for you.
Of course, leopards aren't human. They follow instincts and patterns designed for species survival. Dog eat dog, tooth versus claw, ungrateful leopard son abandoning his ailing mother sort of stuff.
I'd like to think that if I got sick, my kids wouldn't take off, or of they did, they'd do it without marking their scent all over my territory first.
(On a side note -- did you know there are wild leopards living in Mumbai and Beijing -- two of the most populous cities in the world? They hide in the landfills and eat rats, garbage and wandering pets. After seeing the picture of the leopard standing up and peeking over a back yard fence in China, all 150 pounds of him, I'll never complain about coyotes again.)
Sitting here, wondering if my children are thankful for the blessings in their lives -- such as their mother -- forced me look at my own thanksgiving. Am I properly thankful for those people who have made my world a brighter place? Of course I am -- but have I said so?
Not nearly often enough. It's kind of like marriage. The guy assumes that because they've been married, say, oh, 23 years or something like that, that he doesn't have to keep saying "I love you," to his wife.
"Surely," he thinks, that is, if he bothered to think about it at all, "she's figured it out by now."
But knowing he loves her doesn't mean she doesn't want to hear it every now and then. Without having to say it herself first. It's like a logic supposition from the SAT test: A spontaneous "I love you" is to giving thanks what an echo "I love you" is to gratitude.
Do you think God doesn't know we are thankful? He knows all we see and do and feel -- of course he knows. And unlike the wife, God doesn't have insecurity issues, so he doesn't have to hear us say "Thank you" once a year -- but we need to hear it ourselves.
I think we take our blessings for granted too often, and by listing them in our Thanksgiving prayer, we realize just how lucky we are.
So I give thanks for my family and friends and coworkers who endure my moods and laugh at my jokes and don't hesitate to set me down hard when I need it.
I give thanks for my four-legged friends who will curl up in my lap, even when there is tuna in the bowl, proving that cupboard love is a myth.
I give thanks for this country, which allows me to voice my opinion without fear of reprisal (most of the time), and I give thanks for the men and women who fight to keep it that way.
I give thanks for the bounties of the earth, the mysteries of this planet, and the love that surrounds us all, whether we get it in writing or not.
I give thanks for the beauty of the wild things like the leopards that move so gracefully and freely in the night.
And I give thanks that they are in Beijing not in Tennessee...