When I first heard the song “All Good Gifts” in the adorably ragamuffin movie version of Godspell way back in 1973, I got choked up. I didn’t understand why. And then, even though I considered God (“if there even is such a thing”) a mindless force, I began to cry when the cast sang:
We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer
For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.
Not just because of Stephen Schwartz’s lilting melody or Merrill’s sweet tenor, but because the century’s-old words touched some deep longing in me. A longing that overrode my official atheist-turned-agnostic-turned-“I have my own religion” views at the time. A longing that pre-existed not just my theories, but me. A longing to know, love, and thank my Creator for my very existence.
I learned later that virtually every study on happiness shows an inseparable connection to gratitude. Humans are wired to give thanks. We’re made that way.
Three years later, I took a leap of faith, and for the first time began thanking God “for all things bright and good.” But most of all, because I had “no gifts to offer,” I offered him the one thing he desired, my “humble, thankful heart.” And I still do. But when I forget and focus on mere things, the longing returns. And then I remember what I’m made for.
On this day that Americans call Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to those who love and support me, to my wife, to my family and friends, and to those who are kinder to me than I deserve. But most of all, I’m grateful to the One who made them. The One responsible for all good gifts.
Who do you thank?