THANKSGIVING AND THE ‘GLAD GAME’
By DANNY MINTON
Frederick Langbridge died in 1923. The one thing that he left behind that has had a lasting impression is a short poem he wrote. It simply says:
“Two men look through prison bars;
One sees mud the other stars.”
It’s a simple little poem with a powerful message. Some people are never happy. They are always looking at the negative side of things. It’s one complaint after another. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. I don’t like this. I don’t like that. The world is going to pot. I don’t like him. I don’t like her. Why didn’t he do this? Why did he do that? And on and on and on. All they see is mud. They dwell on the bad things in life and wallow in self-pity.
On the other hand, there are those whose outlook is always bright. It’s the attitude, “If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” These are the people who soak in the beauty of the stars. They see the positive side of life, and when bad comes along, they don’t let it get them down. They just “keep on, keeping on.”
In the movie “Pollyanna,” Pollyanna plays the “Glad Game.” It’s a game where you look for the best in everything. The people in the little town are a very unhappy group. The preaching on Sunday was always negative and left everyone in a sour mood. Pollyanna was always looking at the good side of things, which irritated many of those around her.
When asked why, she says that her father made up the game after a very disappointing event in her life. She illustrates it by saying her missionary father thought of it when she asked for a doll for Christmas and was sent a pair of crutches instead. What was so “glad’ about that? They were glad that they didn’t have to use them! So, they ask her, “What’s so glad about Sunday!” She thinks and then with a happy smile says, “It’ll be six whole days before it comes around again!”
Sad to say we live in a world where people spend so much time looking at the negative of things that they fail to stop and give thanks for what they’ve been blessed. The first thoughts are often negative. Our eyes focus on what’s wrong or missing in life and fail to truly be thankful for the good we see. When we allow the negative to take hold, it not only affects us but also those around us.
Life is a journey. How that journey goes depends on each of us as individuals. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have or what is wrong, our focus should be on what God has so graciously given us. Most of us will sit down to a feast on Thanksgiving Day. We’ll laugh with family with parades and football games blaring in the background. There will be an abundance and leftovers for days. We have nice cars, homes, clothes and lots and lots of things lying around our home that to us or important, but more than likely sold at a garage sale after we’re gone.
We can go to worship on any Sunday without the threat of being arrested for assembling together. We can go to a bookstore and walk an aisle with a thousand Bibles in a dozen translations. We can pick one out and carry it openly out the door without being put in jail for owning it. We can come and go as we please. We are free to openly share our faith.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 32:11: “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” Being thankful for all that God has given us should make us “Glad!” We should be happy people who know how much God cares for us. It’s time to start playing the “Glad Game,” looking at the good in people and things instead of focusing on what we don’t have or the downside of life.
As we gather around our feast, we not only should remember how blessed we have been but also how God expects us to share his blessings with the world around us. If each of us did one good deed a day for someone, what impact could that have on the world? Being thankful is more than just words, it’s spreading the goodness around. It is sharing with those in need, both physically and spiritually.
Many negative things are happening in this world. There are many disappointments and heartaches. In our journey, we can choose to wallow in those times, or we can choose to look around and be thankful for what we have. Sit down and make two lists. One is all the things you dislike, and the other is all the things you have for which you are thankful. Take the second list, those things for which you are thankful, and tape it to your mirror to see every morning. Take the first list, the dislikes, fold it up and put it in an envelope, seal it and label it, “For God.” Then every day pray a prayer of thanks for the list on the mirror and a prayer for God’s help for those things that you have sealed and only you, and He knows about.
One more thing. As you hold hands and pray over your Thanksgiving meal take time to play the “Glad Game.” Let each person share one thing that they are truly thankful for in their life’s journey.
“Light is sown like seed for the righteous And gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones, And give thanks to His holy name. Psalm 97:11-12 (NASB)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ