My first surprise was how many people were willing to participate. I knew I could cajole a few staff members to get in front of the camera, but to my delight 28 people agreed to record a message. Several people actually tracked me down at church to make sure they were included. I was also delighted by how exuberant people were in their thanksgiving. People were genuinely excited to share what they are thankful for. And finally I was struck by the variety of things that people are thankful for. Some cited family and homes. Many mentioned various aspects of Seattle First Baptist – a sense of community, opportunities to serve, feeling accepted just as we are, a great place for children, and more. People are thankful for life itself, and for people who have helped them stay alive. Our beautiful city makes the list.
Beyond being surprised and delighted, I learned a lot by doing this project. I discovered just how noisy it is in our building even when the church seems nearly deserted, and I learned that some microphones – we are now the proud owners of one – can record the sounds one is actually trying to record without picking up every closed door and toilet flush within a block radius. I learned the hard way that technology only works when all the correct switches are turned ON at the appointed time, and that sometimes one simply has to read enough of the instruction manual to be able to operate a camera in something other than AUTO mode.
Mostly I learned that people are thankful because of who they are, more than their precise circumstances or what just happened. No one said they were thankful for the new car they just bought or a recent promotion at work. Not even Pastor Tim said he was thankful for the Seahawks, although that could be because they keep losing this year. People were thankful even though they were grieving the recent loss of a loved one, and others who face major health challenges were thankful anyway.
When I was younger I did not appreciate the writings of the Apostle Paul much, but over the years some of his words make sense in ways they never did in my youth. This passage from I Thessalonians 5 is a good example:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks for everything – for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (from The Inclusive Bible)
It may seem ludicrous to rejoice always, and give thanks for everything. But that’s what thankful people seem to do, at least most of the time. They have challenges and disappointments just like we all do, AND they are thankful anyway. I am glad that we have so many thankful people at Seattle First Baptist, and that I am learning to be a thankful person too, at least on my good days.
Click here to watch the videos of A Thankful People.