Several years ago a few students spoke at our church’s Sunday services about a mission trip to Haiti they had just completed.  From their emotional accounts of the trip, I knew it had been a life-changing experience for them. The words of one of the students, however, made it a game changer for me as well.

The female student recounted that the group met an older woman on the streets of Haiti who lived in a makeshift house made of cardboard, wood, and other materials gathered from a local junk pile. It was so small that only a couple people could fit it inside, but the woman warmly welcomed visitors and was proud of her humble home. The students quickly befriended her, and during the week were troubled to see signs that she needed medical attention. Late in their trip, they decided to pool their spending money so the woman could get medical attention at a local hospital. She was brought to the hospital where she was treated and observed overnight. When the students came to see her one last time before returning to the United States, they brought her some food and gathered around her bedside.  The student recalled that woman would eat a very small bite of food, pause for a minute, and then eat a little more. This pattern continued for several minutes. Concerned about her health, the students asked the woman if she was ok.

This humble Haitian woman then spoke words that moved all the students and have remained in my heart for years: “I am fine. I was just stopping to thank God for every bite of food He has provided”.

When I heard these words, I realized how presumptuous I had been about God’s provision and how shallow my thanks have been for His care for me through the years. I asked God to help me have a more authentic, thankful heart and attitude, and still pray this prayer today. There’s a verse in the Bible that is helpful in remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness in life:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17

Thanksgiving begins with the realization that we have nothing apart from what God lovingly provides to us. As we celebrate Thanksgiving in a land of plenty, it’s easy to rush through a Thanksgiving meal that may include several courses of food, forgetting to savor the aromas and tastes and remember the One who has provided it all for us.

But this Thanksgiving, try something a little different: For the first minute or two of the meal take a small bite of food, savor it, and remember the miracle of how God has provided for you each day. Let your thanks be given to God like the Haitian woman, because every bite, every breath, every person, and every moment are precious gifts from Him to you. God is so good that He has given you—each day—the food you have needed. Let there be a moment or moments to pause and give heartfelt thanks to God, more than just a perfunctory grace spoken before the meal. Then savor every moment of the day, people, and food God has given to you.

Finally, this Thanksgiving, pray for the people in the world who are alone, homeless, sick, or hungry and ask God how you, like the students, can take some of your spending money to bless someone in need.

Why? Because Thanksgiving begins with thanks and ends with giving.

…And it’s an essential part of a life of worship.

God bless you!

Chris Atkins