If you Google the word Thanksgiving you get 251,000,000 results. It is interesting to scan this web search to see the kinds of things that surface. You see of course the Wikipedia history as well as many news feeds and events that describe the activities of this Holiday but I noticed perhaps with lessor search engine results that if you search thankfulness (with only 4,330,000 results) you find inspiring expressions and even quotes. One is filled with history and current newsfeeds that informs but does not stir the heart. Thankfulness however yields results that inspire and even point to a spiritual meaning of the word. Even the word gratitude appears as part of the Wikipedia and Dictionary definitions. Today I want to surrender my thoughts about Thanksgiving and focus on thankfulness. Let me explain what I mean this way.
Every year on Thanksgiving Day and during the Dallas Cowboy Football game I would tune in to especially see the successful launching of the The Red Kettle program with the Salvation Army. Major George Hood ’87 who was then Salvation Army’s National Community Relations and Development Secretary was at the game promoting the new initiative. I would often spot him in the crowd of football fans and send him a text message. My message was always similar, “Thanks for what you do! Oh, by the way, I am envious of you!” with a wink. Major Hood is now retired from the Salvation Army and serving as a consultant with The Timothy Group.
As Director of Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) Alumni Relation it is always a joy to maintain a connection with grads of IWU. I am excited when I can tell their story about being a student at Indiana Wesleyan University. For me, telling Major George Hood’s story is exciting because of his many years serving special families in need within communities across the country. The Salvation Army is one of those special causes that we are reminded of at the kick-off of not only a football game but also the opportunity to share thankfulness in a tangible way!
Today’s blog entry is for the purpose of sharing briefly the story of alumni that serve to make life a little easier for families by collecting tangible resources that demonstrate our thankfulness and sharing with people in my own community who have need.
Demonstrating thankfulness is a part of the ministry of IWU. IWU partners with the local Marion community Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. They do this by helping to advertise the program over local radio and encourage people to buy gifts for children in need within our community. Lieutenants Jason Bigelow and his wife Dana are leading these efforts in our community. Jason is currently a student at IWU – soon to be alum! Their ministry is one of dedication and service. For the past several years their work has served many needs.
Another example of thankfulness is in the life of a recent grad, Major Clay Gardner ’14. His dedicated work over the years has also served as a beacon of hope for countless families. His role includes serving as instructor at the College for Officer Training with the Salvation Army, Los Angeles, CA. In a recent interview with Major Clay Gardner he said about his education with IWU.
“When I was first ordained after a two year training program that got me an undergraduate degree in Ministry (over 25 years ago) I have longed to go on and get my Master’s Degree but it never happened. When I was near a program, I lacked the support necessary and when I had the support, there wasn’t a program nearby. Thanks to the online program (through Wesley Seminary at IWU), I have finally been able to realize my dream/goal. I have learned things that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. Through instructors like Dr. Bob Whitesel and Dr. Lenny Luchetti who pushed me to do my best, I have done just that. It was by far my best educational experience. And now, I get to take that education and pass it along as an instructor in the same college where I got my initial degree. Thanks for helping my dream come true.”
Another inspiriting story that reminds me of thankfulness is in the life of one of my own classmates. Captains Mike and Kathy Wolfe ‘89/’91 have dedicated their work for nearly ten years. They recently transferred from Salina, KS where they served for seven years to Battle Creek, MI. I remember them in college. It was evident even then that their service to people was that of love and compassionate ministry. Every time I see them at Homecoming or when they are visiting family in the area I hear and see a couple who are optimistic and seemingly always smiling even though there are challenges that confront them and their ministry. It is a tireless effort that requires such an incredible effort that can only be carried out through passion and a love that is unconditional. This is who they are.
Lives that are lived with thankfulness seem to yield results of people who are generous. Their lives are not lived for themselves but for the sake of others. People who serve like several IWU alumni demonstrate the mission of IWU by being World Changers. They are people who are compassionate and giving. So today I say thank you for those who are living a life of thankfulness. May we count our blessings and examine our heart to remove those selfish characteristics that cause us to never be satisfied and is often deceptive when we think of our needs, turning instead to our wants. May this Thanksgiving be filled with thankfulness so that we can live out one of those inspiring sayings from my Google search on thankfulness.
“Joy is thankfulness, and when we are joyful, that is the best expression of thanks we can offer the Lord, Who delivers us from sorrow and sin.” ― Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica