T is for Thanksgiving
Outside of churchland, the word “thanksgiving” is primarily used as the name of an autumn holiday. Most people in Canadian society probably associate Thanksgiving with a meal of turkey, root vegetables and pumpkin pie. If they bother to think of its origin and meaning, the best they might come up with is a hazy image of our country’s agrarian past.
In the context of how we can nurture generous giving, I draw your attention to two separate, but related, senses of thanksgiving:
- being thankful for what we have;
- thanking people for what they give.
Each of the next two posts will treat one of those aspects of thanksgiving. In this post I will begin a general exploration of the relationship between gratitude and generosity.
My general hypothesis is that generosity can be influenced by the experience of gratitude. In one case it is the gratitude we experience for what we have received, while in the other case it is the gratitude we experience for what we have given. In the next post I will lay out the scientific case for what gratitude can do for people, but as yet I have not seen any empirical evidence connecting increased gratitude with increased generosity. So it will have to remain a hunch for now.
“Gratitude” comes from the Latin word gratia meaning “favour”. Gratia is the root of our words “grace” and its relatives (gracious, graceful), as well as “gratis”, “gratuity” and “gratuitous”. The Latin gratus means “pleasing”, and gives us our words “gratify” and “congratulate”.
“Gratitude as a discipline involves conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are steep and hurt and resentful.”
While “gratitude” shows up only twice in the NRSV translation of the Bible, “thank” and its derivatives appear more than 150 times. The imperative “give thanks” occurs 33 times.
In the next two posts we will look at what it might mean to give thanks in a more deliberate and mindful way.