Thanksgiving Message 2009 by Benjamin Chernivsky

Nothing is more potent, more in accord with being God-like than filling our thought with gratitude; even if the task seems challenging. What better time is there to expand our gratitude than during this time, the Thanksgiving holiday?  It is a special time to think to reflect on the past 11 months of this concluding year and fill our thought with the rigor, intensity and grace of what we’ve witnessed during four wonderful seasons.  We’ve all witnessed lots of good!

Gratitude has been in my thinking quite a bit this autumn on my journey through India with a College Abroad group.  It’s been an incredible experience for me, and it begs me to ask each of us to be more grateful than ever for the supply we have in the United States.  Everyday pictures of poverty, famine and corruption came to us in India.  We were also challenged individually by our workload and the travel.  However, the experience has also made clear the absolute reality of Love’s substance.  Half-way around the world  and hearing a different language and experiencing a different culture, there is a universal language we all understand – both those traveling and at home – the language of love, charity and gratitude.

The clearest demonstration of this fact is felt in acts of charity and selflessness, two qualities we certainly work on during Camp.  Countless times was invited to walk home with someone and eat dinner with their family, with the result that over time I was welcomed by an entire family as an unexpected guest. Countless times I saw my group find incredible joy as a result of talking with beggars and street dwellers. While the communication was difficult, the results were always joyful, fulfilling and surprising. It became clear to me as a result that the only reality – the only true substance – is that of Love, charity and gratitude.

I realize that not all of us can travel thousands of miles in order to understand that what we have at home begs our constant gratitude, but I think about the immense amount of gratitude we witness at the camp during each summer.  Every camper knows how wonderful we feel at camp when we’re surrounded by good friends, supportive counselors, and the little bit of paradise called Pyramid Point. I say this even after traveling around the world and back a few times: we have a special spot in Northern Michigan!  We say this often during the summer sessions at Leelanau, and now it becomes meaningful. Good work is easy to do when you’re surrounded by friends and family, but in challenging situations we need to stay focused on doing our good work.  We left camp three months ago and Thanksgiving is a good time to feel a jump-start – to share what we feel with the world, and doing so begins with gratitude.

Honestly filling our minds with gratitude can be difficult at times, and we’re asked to do it cheerfully!  II Corinthians reminds us to “give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  How we all love the cheerful giver!  We recognize such an individual when we feel the love in simple acts of charity. We know that we, too, can spread warmth and love. We’ve learned how at camp; and if those with less than us and in worse situations can do it, so can we. Now is a special time of year share our gratitude!