54 years ago today my future was being shaped. I was sitting in a 7th-grade study hall. At that time our new high school was almost finished — but not quite. So a mixture of 7th through 12th graders was spread throughout an auditorium.
A rustling of papers. A note being slid onto a desk as someone went to the restroom. A brave soul walking up on stage to ask the study hall teacher a question.
“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” ~ JFK, 1957, Profiles in Courage
The ticking of the wall clock. The big hand loudly clicking into place. Marking time in our lives until we could talk in the hallways on our way to the next class. I know it was loud because I had spent lots of time in that auditorium — boy scout meetings with the active dad and brother, minstrel practices every winter I can remember in this life, a joint Easter sunrise services, dance recitals, choir concerts, band concerts, fair activities…… That auditorium was one of the hubs of our community.
But on this particular day, the clock stopped. The everyday noise that a group of people makes while going about their business, stopped as well. Where I sat, the color of the wall, the dark curtains that hung on the windows, the utter silence of the room frozen in place. An announcement. A voice that cracked as it spoke.
“In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.” ~ JFK, Profiles in Courage
l don’t remember the words our principal used that day. I remember the import. And somehow — in that 7th-grade developing brain — I realized life would be changed forever. When you grow up in Camelot and see a hole shot through the garden wall, the ground shakes beneath the feet — the sun dims — the birds stop their song — the world holds its breath.
It is a strange thing to write a Gratitude Attitude about a tragedy on the Thanksgiving Eve, and yet — every year as this date rolls around, I remember that 7th-grade study hall. I remember reading the president’s books after this day. Listening to his speeches. Starting a new questing path.
Seventeen days before he died, President Kennedy issued his Thanksgiving proclamation. He wrote,
“Today we give our thanks [to Providence], most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers—for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate.”
Gratitude Attitude is not always for the easy things, the common things. Sometimes it is being thankful for the hard things — the scary things — the things that make us sit in front of a small TV black-and-white screen to watch a riderless horse with the stirrups turned backwards — a small girl kneeling in front of a casket — a smaller boy saluting a casket — the pictorial book as the torch was passed.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings—let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals—and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.” ~ Nov 5, 1963, JFK,Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Let me ask you a question. Do you have difficulty with bitterness, selfishness, self-pity, negativism, or pride? An attitude of gratitude can change those things and literally transform your life.
Gratitude is “the dance of being in the moment,” of appreciating during even the stormiest moments, the simple act of taking a life-affirming breath. Michael Bowyer Community pastor, Compass Point Bible Church
Tomorrow is a day for family, parades, football and card games, but most of all, it is time to give thanks to God — to Providence — to the God of Nature — to the Great Spirit for all these blessings. Remembering the past, enjoying the present and walking forward into the future.
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christus Yeshua. our LORD…”~1 Tim 1:12