Thankful, Indeed

By Jim Wallis 11-24-2011

I’ve learned that it’s especially important for those who are always trying to change the world, to remember what they are thankful for in their world as it is!

First I am thankful to God for his or her patience with us. Thankful that despite how much we human beings (perhaps especially we religious believers), so often disappoint, embarrass, and even hurt God with the things we say and do — even in God’s name; that God still continues to love us, forgive us, and call us to act more like God’s children, who should live together like brothers and sisters.

I am thankful to Jesus, who seems to have survived all of us Christians who name his name. Thankful that he is still so popular all over the world, even when Christians are, well, are not so much. But I’m also thankful for when Christians or others actually do the things that Jesus said, love their neighbors and even their enemies, just as he taught us to do, and when we do treat “the least of these” in the same way that we would treat him. I’m always most thankfully surprised by the unexpected and simple acts of love, grace, kindness, welcome, and justice that make people want to believe in and follow Jesus again.

I am thankful to my country for its deepest and truest ideals, even, and especially when we so often betray them. And I am most grateful for the people that consistently challenge us to live up to the best of those values; more than those who keep telling us how exceptional we are.

I am thankful for the memories of my father and mother who taught their children the power of faith, and for all my siblings and their children who continue to try to teach each other the power of love.

I am thankful to have far more than a handful of life-long friends who have traveled this journey with me and still do.

I am profoundly thankful for the unexpected gift of family, after running for so long on my own, and for all the ways that Joy, Luke, and Jack have taught me how to enjoy the world while still trying to change it.

I am thankful for women priests and pastors, and for what they bring to the churches, and that I am married to one of the best. Thankful that my boys have seen their mom and other women being priests, once causing one of them at a young age to ask, “Can men be priests too?”

I am so very thankful for two healthy and happy boys, who love their schools, love their sports, and mostly love their family. And for the fact that they always love to have other people around our table, in our guest room, or over for a “play date” or, now, to just “hang out” with our 13 year old.  I’m thankful that our house is the clubhouse for the teams and classes they are such a big part of. And I’m grateful that their Mom, Joy Carroll, just loves to throw a party for almost any occasion.

I love the way Jack loves to read, to write, and to imagine the most amazing stories, scenarios, and possibilities.  And I love the way he makes us all laugh all the time. (In a recent conflict over baseball and church he said, “Dad, don’t get me wrong, I really do appreciate God, it’s just church that is boring.”)

I’m thankful that Luke is on both the baseball team and the debate team and reminds me, “Dad, I know how you feel about all these debate topics and, of course, I agree with your position, but I have to learn both sides.” I also am thankful for his characteristic empathy and that he doesn’t tolerate bullies.  

And I am thankful for baseball and all the joy it brings our family. I’m thankful that my boys can never get enough of it, and for how much Joy and I love to watch them both play. Thankful for this summer’s Little League World Series Tournament and how far Luke’s team got in what became an experience of a life-time. Thankful too for getting to coach both of my boys, for the strong father/son bond that being their Little League coach has created, and for all the other important relationships with kids and parents that baseball has brought to into our lives. I’m very thankful to walk into our family room full of boys, say “Hi Guys,” and hear back “Hi Dad” and “Hi Coach.” And finally, I am thankful for the baseball field we live right door next to, where we play so many of our games, and where I am “Coach Jim” more than I am Jim Wallis.

I am thankful for my colleagues and co-collaborators at Sojourners who make more of a difference per capita than any small group of people in the world.

And I’m thankful for all the local pastors and leaders I meet, all over the country and the world, who are doing such great things, and often humbled and grateful when they tell me that they were “inspired by Sojourners.”

I am thankful for a new generation of young Christians, Jews, Muslims, and more who want their faith and their lives to make a difference in the world.

I am thankful for Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday, and Billy Graham’s 92rd.  And thankful for the legacy and mentoring of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr., who still sit on each of my shoulders whispering in my ears.

I am thankful that Gordon Cosby, founder of the Church of the Savior, regularly prays for me.

I am thankful for the Arab Spring and hopeful that it will blossom into democracy in more and more places.

I am thankful for the Occupy Movement and the young protestors against inequality who have sprung up to articulate the discontents and hopes of the world.

I am thankful for the Circle of Protection that has united Christians across all the boundaries around the poor and vulnerable, and reminds policy makers that a budget is a moral document.

I am thankful for Block Island where my family and our friends rest and play.

I am thankful for the houses of worship all over the world where I come to pray.

And always, I am thankful for a great full course turkey dinner with lots of people around the table—all remembering who and what they are thankful for. What a great holiday; a time to be thankful.


Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.


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