Give thanks in all circumstances [1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)]

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefit. [Psalm 103:2 (ESV)]

little blue heron (juv) - roseate spoonbill - black crowned night heronWe should thank God in all things and we’re blessed by God when we do. An attitude of gratitude invites His presence into our lives and focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. It leaves no room for complaint, transforms anxiety into peace, strengthens our witness, and reminds us who is the giver of all gifts. An attitude of gratitude, however, does something more. It not only opens the door for continued blessings from God but from people as well. Good things happen to us when we have a thankful heart.

We were at our favorite swamp/bird sanctuary and perched just below us was a juvenile little blue heron. With his white feathers, he’s easily mistaken for just another egret. A man joined us on the platform and started to set up his tripod. We directed him to the little heron posing so perfectly and he thanked us for pointing it out. We chatted a bit and I spotted a beautiful roseate spoonbill. We tried to point out the pink and white bird and then he told us of his color blindness and that reds appear a brownish yellow. For him, the reddish bird so obvious to us blended right in with the foliage around it. We patiently guided his eye to the right spot and he thanked us for our patience. We helped him spot several other birds hiding in the trees and then found him another spoonie that was lurking in the shadows nearby. Each time we found him a bird, he expressed his appreciation.

Later that morning, we saw him in the parking lot as he stowed his equipment. When he thanked us again, I asked if he’d ever visited another (less well-known) conservation area that offers great photo ops. Unfamiliar with it, I started to give directions when my husband offered to guide him to the right road. Again thanking us, he asked if we’d wait while he made a return trip to the visitor center for a much needed rest stop. Five minutes later, we were leading him out of the parking lot. We paused at the turnoff and, as we waved him on, he called out one more thank you. When we drove off, my husband said he’d made the offer to become a guide for one simple reason—the man had thanked us earlier that morning!

The following day, a woman asked the species of a bird she saw. After identifying the limpkin, I guided her eyes to the dull brown juvenile night heron resting on a branch. After thanking me, she confided that she’d never seen an adult night heron and hoped to see one before departing. I continued down the boardwalk to the next lake where I spotted a beautiful night heron. Realizing how easily she might miss the sighting, I returned to her and offered to take her to the posing bird. It probably took about ten minutes of my time, but I did it because she’d been so appreciative earlier that morning.

According to 2014 study published in Emotion (a journal of the American Psychological Association), gratitude is far more than good manners. It makes you friendlier, more likeable, and opens the door to relationships. In fact, thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. We didn’t exchange emails or phone numbers with those people, but we made temporary friends and brightened each other’s day. Friends are made by being friendly, encouraging, and by remembering to say “thanks.” Acknowledging other people’s contributions can, indeed, lead to new opportunities (even if they’re just great photo ops!)

Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. [Randy Pausch]

Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. [2 Samuel 2:6 (ESV)]

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