There is a Chinese legend about a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests.
One day when the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled epicures praised this exquisite tea.
The host smiled and said, “The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.”
With the prosperity that we enjoy in America, it is easy to take for granted the abundance of our blessings. And in our hurried and harried lives, we too often fail to slow down and appreciate the little things in life that provide pleasure. A beautiful sunset. The changing of the leaves. A snow-capped mountain. Warming by the fireplace. Good conversation with friends. A child’s laughter. The embrace of a loved one. A hot cup of coffee. Holding hands with your husband or wife. An evening walk on the beach. Or a hug and a kiss from your granddaughter.
My friend and preaching colleague wrote in one of his Daybooks, “Appreciation is the last link in a chain that starts with the conscious effort to count our blessings. It has never been said better than in the words of the old hymn: ‘Count your many blessings, name them one by one.’
The Bible issues this simple exhortation, “In everything give thanks” (1Thess. 5:18).
The words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” resound throughout the writings of the Psalmist. He was thankful for God’s mercy. For his protection. For His creation. For his wondrous works. For physical provisions. And His spiritual blessings. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” (Ps 118:29) summed his attitude of appreciation for God’s goodness.
Regardless of the circumstance or situation, there is always something for which we can give thanks. Sometimes we may have to look beyond the dark clouds to find the blessing. Author Napoleon Hill wrote, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” It takes, however, a spirit of appreciation to see the benefit.
While we learn the value of appreciation, it should not be lost on us that all people crave appreciation. American psychologist William James observed that “The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.” Remember this is true in all of our relationships. In our jobs. In our church family. With our spouses, children and parents. And even among total strangers.
To help you develop a greater appreciation for others, here are a few simple things you can do.
♦Make a list of the people you appreciate. Then find ways to let them know why you appreciate them.
♦Say “thank you” at every opportunity for the smallest gestures of kindness shown by others
♦Sincerely compliment others for work well done.
♦Praise people in the presence of others they respect and admire.
♦Write “thank you” notes to express your gratitude for a kindness shown.
♦Congratulate people for their achievements.
♦Remember and recognize important events like birthdays and anniversaries of those you care about.
♦Do something unexpected to lend a helping hand.
What can you add to the list to increase your appreciation for others?
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in America, it would be well for us to remember the words of the English clergyman, John Clayton, “Thanksgiving is a time when the world gets to see just how blessed and how workable the Christian system is. The emphasis is not on giving or buying, but on being thankful and expressing that appreciation to God and to one another.”
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John F. Kennedy)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman