Gratefulness a way of life

Chaplain’s Corner

Padre Zibby Jonczyk

As a military chaplain I have the privilege of serving people of all ages. Although our military congregations are usually younger from those of many civilian churches and other places of worship we too have veterans, members who have been coming to our chapels for the last twenty or thirty years and who like to joke that they are a part of the church

While I have friends who are in their twenties and thirties, I am also close friends with those who are in their sixties, seventies, eighties and some even in their nineties. I have often wondered why I enjoy being friends with older people so much. I have come to the realization that perhaps the reason for that is that my father was quite a bit older than most of my school friends’ fathers. My father was born in 1925 and he was not only a great father but also my mentor and friend until he died in 1992. My father lost his own father at the age of five. He lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and even after the war his life was not easy. He learned to live with whatever little he had and he taught me how to appreciate the little we had when I was growing up. Through much hardship my father learned how to be grateful. My mother who before the war grew up under more privileged circumstances, also learned how to be grateful during the hard times of war. By their examples, I learned gratefulness as a way of life.

While it is certainly true that the friendship I have with older people is due partly to the friendship I had with my father, I have come to realize that regardless of the age of my friends, one of the characteristics they all have in common is that they are deeply grateful, often because of the hardships they have experienced in life. In God’s wisdom, life’s hardships teach us to be grateful. Gratefulness is not the privilege of the old. I also know many young people who are grateful because of the example they see in their homes and the work of God in their hearts. However, generally speaking, when I consider the younger generations, I am concerned about what seems to be a general lack of gratefulness and a certain sense of entitlement. While most of us did not have to experience war, poverty or other significant challenges while we grew up, we can practice gratefulness and teach our children how to be grateful.

What can we do to become a grateful person? Let’s start with saying “thank you” to people who do things for us no matter how great or small they might be. We should teach our children to thank their teachers for their encouragement; to thank the janitor at school for the clean environment they help maintain; to thank those who serve them at restaurants and grocery stores. The world seem to like to make fun of us for being the “Thank-you Nation”, so let’s live up to the title with pride and make sure our children learn how a simple ‘thank you” can change someone’s day.