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WAYS: How did you learn to express gratitude

Several weeks prior to finishing each issue of Interpreter, we emailed a question to readers asking them to respond with a short answer. Thanks to all of our readers who have responded over the past four years.


How did you learn to express gratitude?

I learned to express gratitude on the knee of my Great Grandma Effie Alexander. She raised my sister and me and did not complain. Ma Effie (as we all called her) was a devout woman who taught me how to pray, to read my Bible and to trust in the love that Jesus has for me. “Thanks to God” was never far from her lips. And in her gratitude to God for all the blessings bestowed upon her, she was diligent in making sure that we knew too to “thank the Lord at all times.” The Rev. Effie McAvoy, the UMC of York Ogunquit, York, Maine 

I learned to express gratitude because it was modeled before me. I listened to my parents and grandparents say prayers and sing songs of thanksgiving on a regular basis. When I went to church, the pastor and church leaders always stressed the word “gratitude.” At an early age, gratitude was embedded in my fiber. Somehow, I knew that my blessings didn’t just show up from nowhere, so I thanked God continuously. Gloria Watkins Brown, Faith UMC, Twinsburg, Ohio

I grew up in a large family and one thing I was taught was to say please and thank you as an act of courtesy, but I was taught to express gratitude by my actions. We were taught to show gratitude the grace we received by giving grace in all ways. We were taught to “pay it forward” when we could not show our gratitude directly to the one from whom we received. The Rev. Matthew Filicsky, Fairmount, Fairview and Georgetown UMCs, Georgetown, Illinois

I learned early as a child to be grateful after seeing those not so fortunate. I understood I had little control over life's benefits and accepted that I received unearned grace, which meant I had duties to others as a required expression of gratitude. Larry Keller, Rockport UMC, Lakewood, Ohio

I learned to express gratitude from a single aunt. She lived in a three-room house on very little. Yet she taught her nieces and nephews to appreciate the robin on her nest, the rabbit scampering through the tall grass, the stars with all their formations, and a batch of fresh baked cookies. She taught me to appreciate all the little things! Bill Moore, Schweitzer UMC, Springfield, Missouri

Expressing gratitude has been a lifelong process. As a child growing up in a Christian home and on a ranch, gratitude was in everything we did. We saw the wonders of God every day and were taught to enjoy and express our love for our Lord through the beauty of his creation. Pamela Shaw, St. Andrew UMC, Borger, Texas

Several years ago I attended a church where testimonial services were held every first Sunday. During that time, I never gave a "testimony" because I felt that I didn’t have one because I had not experienced any of the issues of drug and alcohol addiction or abuses that were often talked about. I later realized that having NOT experienced those things was my testimony and I learned to express gratitude for how God spared me from those ills. Wanda Clay, Clark Memorial UMC, Nashville, Tennessee

I learned to express gratitude by observing the current pastor at Everglades Community Church. He sends hand-written thank you cards to every adult, youth and child who participates in the ministries and missions of the church. He also expresses gratitude to the congregation for sharing God’s love through deed and word with the people they interact with regularly in his weekly newsletter message. Valerie Peralta, Everglades Community Church, Pembroke Pines, Florida 

Gratitude can be a type of recognition with; listening, a smile, a hug, a phone call, a handwritten note, a card, a treat, a flower, or/ and a warm meaningful thank you, with a prayerful blessing from God. Patricia Engelbrecht, First UMC, Gladwin, Michigan

I had just resigned my commission in the USAF after about seven years of service to be more of a father to my four sons and husband to my wife. We were starting over, barely getting by when a couple came over to babysit for us. They wanted to give us a little break. During the babysitting, they realized that our food cabinets and refrigerator was all but empty. When we got home, they asked why and we told them we had enough to get by day to day, but not extra money to keep stock on hand. Later that night the couple came back to our home with a truck load of food to stock the cabinets. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes to think about their loving spirits and willingness to take action to help change the situation. Katherine and I learned a great lesson in gratitude that night. William Howell, First UMC, Coon Rapids, Iowa

I have worked over 60 years as a registered nurse. I was trained in Iowa Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Des Moines. My family stressed saying thank you to God at every meal and bedtime. As a nurse, I learned how much Jesus has been by my side for every minute of my 82 years. I try to appreciate every day and check in with him at each chance I have to love him for being here with me! Charlotte Maffin, Buhl (Idaho) UMC

I learnt to be grateful to God, by observing the struggle people who grew up with me face due to the lack of consciousness of Jesu’s love in their lives and watching the testimony of people who nowadays are being released from sin jails, through the gospel message. Thanks, Lord God, I will always love and be grateful to you! Artur Quicassa, Bishop Ralph Edward Dodge UMC, Luanda, Angola

I learned to express gratitude by understanding that we do not walk alone, but others are with us. Our successes are attributable to others, as well as to our own efforts. Richard Paschall, First UMC, Salisbury, North Carolina

I learned to express gratitude as a means to move from depression into peace. As a missionary, I lived amongst the poor, or should I say those who are struggling materially in this world, observing their joy and gratitude. It moved me to want to live with the same vibrancy and appreciation of each other and for each day of life. Here I leaned to be thankful for everything, especially the hard times for in them there is a deeper blessing. The Rev. Nancy Robinson, Lakeside UMC, Henrico, Virginia

I learned to express my gratitude when I was in a situation in 1984 that I coded “blue” in the hospital emergency room. My blood pressure was 50/30, and I heard the nurses say, “I think we are losing her.” I then heard the voice of Jesus say to me, “Jo, you are not ready. You must go back.” I felt my spirit return to my body. When I woke up, I repented and changed my ways of living. I am gracious for the merciful God that I serve, who has compassion and gave me a second chance. Jo Drago, Moyock (North Carolina) UMC

I am grateful to God day by day for salvation (that) allows me to enjoy my family, and I express this gratefulness through service, through the proclamation of his word (and) working in the local church so that the kingdom of the heavens is expanded. I am a health volunteer and also traveled on missions. Psalm 6:33 Ruth Gomez, Christ Hispanic UMC, Orlando, Florida

When I was a young child, I expected things to be done for me and things to be given to me, sort of the belief of "entitlement.” When I became a teenager, I realized that I was not "entitled" to anything, but that what I received was given or done out of love. At that point, I understood what Jesus meant when he said to love one another and be grateful for love received. Tom Long, First UMC, Catawissa, Pennsylvania

I learned from my parents. They me taught to say "thank you." They taught me to pray and thank God for all I had. As time went by, I realize that I had much for which to be thankful. Traveling and seeing the world, I became thankful for all God has created. I've survived many health problems – heart attack, cancer, diabetes – and God has always been there. I live life with an attitude of gratitude! The Rev. Beth Tickner (retired), First UMC, Fairfield, Illinois

I learned to express gratitude as a small child from my mother who taught me to respond “thank you” to the question “What do you say?” when given a gift or praised. Jeffrey Balling, Pearson Memorial UMC, Trenton, New Jersey

I learned from my mother and dad. It was not an option, it was required, but in that process, l learned how much it meant to others and to myself. Robert Bash, Horseshoe Drive UMC, Alexandria, Louisiana

I learned to express gratitude from my parents. They did not actually talk with me about gratitude but I was able to observe on a daily basis how they acted when people were kind to them. I was able to hear conversations that they had with themselves and others about the kindness people showed them. Gwendolyn Brooks, Christ UMC, Baltimore, Maryland

I first learned how to express my gratitude from my mother at a very early age. She taught me, both in word and action, the importance of saying “please” and “thank you” even for the basic everyday things. Her greatest gift to me, however, was kneeling with me beside my bed at the close of everyday when I was young and teaching me how to express my gratitude to God through prayer. Grace H. Dean, Jackson Street UMC, Lynchburg, Virginia

I learned to express gratitude from my parents and grandmother. They taught me to be grateful for all things: food, shelter, education, church and family. Also, to be grateful for challenges because they will only make me stronger and wiser. Doug Drake, Centenary UMC, New Albany, Indiana

I was born into gratitude – adopted into a Christian family setting – adopted again into multiple Protestant faith families and saved and baptized into the eternal Father’s heavenly realms yet to be fully known. Thomas F. Hall, Endwell (New York) UMC

I learned from my parents to be humble, thankful, soft-spoken and to acknowledge I couldn't do anything without the grace of God. I know that everyone needs help from others and to exhibit appreciation for help received. Gary H. Helms Jr., Nashville (North Carolina) UMC

Parental teaching was how I first learned to express gratitude. I was taught to say, "Thank you." I was taught to write notes of gratitude. When learning about prayer and saying table grace, gratitude was a huge part. As I matured in my faith, gratitude has become important. I am grateful God is full of grace and love for all, especially through Jesus. I am grateful I am a Christian. Sandy Hieronymus, Myers Park UMC, Charlotte, North Carolina

My spiritual father told me to "have the grace to receive." If someone gives you something, no matter what their motives are, have the "grace to receive." Vivian Jones, Ebenezer UMC, Ijamsville, Maryland

My parents taught me at childhood to always thank the Lord for each and every thing, the family, food, our home, Jesus and all the benefits we had from being born in this country. Joyce Klein, Trinity UMC, Attica, New York

Like most every child, I learned what gratitude was from my parents, who learned it from their parents. It was in response to one of the most important Christian morals that were ingrained in my soul by the Holy Spirit working through me. I learned that expressing gratitude was not only for my own personal gain, but a divine influence that tells me to humbly show my appreciation. A charitable deed demands a responsive act. Robert L. Martin, First UMC, Wind Gap, Pennsylvania

I learned to express gratitude by observing my parent’s selfless devotion to the raising of their family and by the reminders that God provides all. It’s a reminder to me about the importance of speaking expressions of gratitude to others so that is our cultural norm. Delbert Tolleson, Smithfield UMC, North Richland Hills, Texas

My siblings and I learned gratitude from our mother. She was raising six children on her own and we did not have a lot. However, she taught us to be grateful for what we did have. Furthermore, she insisted that we attend Sunday school and Vacation Bible School where we learned that we owe everything to God's generosity. So, I grew up knowing to say "thank you," no matter how small the gift, compliment or gesture. Georgia Wilson, Andrews Chapel UMC, Jonesboro, Georgia

Our mom made us write thank you notes to those who sent Christmas gifts. While some see that as a lesson in good manners, it paved the way for a lifetime of gratitude. Lisa Buie, First UMC, Land O’Lakes, Florida

I learned by being told by adults to express gratitude when I was a child and by observing others. In what way do I express gratitude? Verbally and through actions. Every night I begin my prayer by saying, “Father God, I thank you for so many things but most of all for your precious son Jesus who made a way for our salvation.” As I say this, I am filled with overflowing gratefulness. I try to share my blessings with others in church, in my family and in my work as a sign language interpreter. Ann Aldridge, Oak Hill UMC, Morganton, North Carolina

I express my thankfulness through prayers and doing acts of kindness. The Bible and United Methodist liturgy contain many prayers of gratitude. There are many different expressions of thankfulness, such as sending a greeting card, note or letter; calling or visiting someone with your gratitude and volunteering to help someone out (in addition to sending a gift). The Rev. Fred Ball, First UMC, Titusville, Florida

I have learned to show gratitude, by paying it forward in the name of God. I was worth dying for; he is worth living for. Caesar Marciales, Christ First UMC, Wasilla, Alaska

You know the expression "heartfelt gratitude?" Gratitude comes from my heart. I learned to open my heart and let the words come forth. When you are truly grateful for your life, the God-given blessings, the words will flow freely. When you see others less fortunate, the words flow. When you help others, expressions of gratitude to God that he gave you the ability to give of yourself for others, words flow easily. Sherrill Martinez, Jacob's Chapel UMC, San Antonio, Texas

Gratitude is a bubble of emotion that fills your heart with happiness. I found the best way to express it was through action: First, hugs and thank yous, then replication of the action. I let the person know how grateful I am in word and deed by passing on their gift to others. Betsy Metcalf, Lakeside UMC, Streetman, Texas

When I learned that most people don’t want special or public recognition. Most prefer a simple and earnest “thank you.” Ken Robinson, Perryville (Missouri) UMC

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