Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful All the Time: A Reminder from Fannie, 1894

Ask someone what they're thankful for, on Thanksgiving Day, and you'll usually get the same kind of answers.

For health, most people over a certain age would say. For family. For friends. For food. For being together with family and/or friends. A roof over our heads. That we live in this country. For pets. And all those are good things to be thankful for.  

Back in 1894, or thereabouts, someone named Fannie Hammond received some friendship cards, which she tucked into a box that had held stationery, to save them.  I unearthed Fannie's box at a recent estate sale, and I've been looking at the cards; they reflect Fannie's faith in Someone bigger than she was.  Even though they're not traditional Thanksgiving cards, they made me think about Thanksgiving and the whole topic of Being Thankful.

The first card I spotted in the old empty stationery box has picture of flowers -- chrysanthemums, I think -- and a Scripture verse on it, about being content with what you have.

Now there's a challenge, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday staring us in the face.

It's helpful to remember that, in the New Testament, when the writer uses the word "for" to connect two thoughts, it means that they're about to explain what they just said.  So the idea is that if you belong to God, you don't really need to fret about what you do or don't have.  

(That shouldn't keep you from shopping for holiday gifts; it should help you remember not to get worked up about it.)

On the back of the card is printed the Twenty-Third Psalm, a veritable shopping list of things the author was thankful for:

The next card in the old box echoes the last verse of Psalm 23:

This card, with the old-fashioned roses, tulips and small blue flowers, is dated on the back 1894-- 120 years ago.  Fannie's teacher gave this card to her and signed it on the back.

Another card in the old box has another Scripture verse.

The verse in the ancient wisdom book of Ecclesiastes comes just after the famous lines that begin:

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven.

The final card in the old box shows another floral design -- a wreath of pink flowers framing a landscape.

Below the design is the first half of a verse from another Psalm, this time Psalm 9:1. I went on the Bible Gateway website to look up the rest of the verse:

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all Your marvelous works.

It's easy to give thanks when there's a national holiday and its massive advertising campaign prodding you to do so. It's easy to feel grateful when things are going really well, and when you've somehow avoided disaster. But that's not enough.

Through Fannie's old cards, I am reminded that my thanks should be wholehearted, that I should strive to be thankful all the time.  

Another ancient verse from about 2,000 years ago says, "In everything, give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Notice it doesn't say "for" everything -- so many things in life are hard and unfair.  

I think "in everything" includes trying to find something good to think about when things are generally not going so well. 

It also includes taking notice of good things on average days, when I don't have massive marketing campaigns, personal euphoria or profound relief to remind me.

So on this average Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that Fannie, whoever she was, saved her lovely old cards.  That someone else didn't throw them away when Fannie died. That I found the cards at the estate sale. That I can share them with you.

And thank you -- for reading.

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