Surprise: Key to Gratefulness for God’s Gifts


By Sister Ruth Ksycki, OSB

A Thanksgiving tradition in my birth family is the prayer before dinner. Everyone shares something from the past year for which they are grateful. I recall 2 particular occasions when I was surprised and “wowed” by the prayer!

One was the child who was thankful for Jesus. Very simple. Very straight forward.

The other occurred the Thanksgiving after my youngest sister had given birth to her first child (just weeks before her husband drowned).

My brother, who had previously lost his own 3 children in a house fire, said, “I am grateful for new life (the newborn child) in our family.”

What a profound sense of appreciation for the gift of life!

The root word for gratitude is gratis, a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received with no expectation of return.

It is a warm, appreciative response that is freely given.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB says that “surprise is the beginning of that fullness we call gratefulness.

“… In these moments of surprise we catch a glimpse of the joy to which gratefulness opens the door … They teach us that everything is a gift … Thankfulness is a gesture of the whole heart or it is nothing. Surprise is the key to gratefulness.”

That element of surprise touched my heart at those Thanksgiving feasts.

As I look back over my life, it is similar moments of surprise, special graces God has given, that fill me with insight, hope, and grace to move into the future.

They often stun me with joy, broaden my vision, and expand my heart. I cannot but praise God.

Pondering the many times I have given a gift or done a favor for someone, how often in the back of my mind is the expectation of a return gift or favor?

On the other hand, how often has my thank you been warm and wholehearted or merely routine?

True gratitude takes us out of ourselves and makes us realize that everything we give to others is a gift from God, and everything we receive – no matter how small – is a gift from God.

Let us be surprised this Thanksgiving by all the gifts we have received from our ever-generous, ever-loving God.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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