There's nobody in the world who doesn't have a lot to feel thankful about. Our families, our friends, our health, even just being alive, are all reasons to celebrate and feel grateful to God.
Yet it can happen that we forget to look at things this way and begin to take the good things in our life for granted. Sometimes we even begin to focus more on what we don't have than what we do.
In this week's Torah portion we learn about the Korban Todah, the special offering that a Jew would bring to the Tabernacle to express thanks to God for the good things that had happened to him.
We can learn from this how worthwhile it is to develop gratitude and be thankful for all of the good in our own lives.
In our story, a girl learns from her friend a precious lesson in how to be thankful for what she has.
"A CLOSER LOOK"
We had all been pulling for Suzie. It had been six long weeks since she had had her eye operation. That whole time she had to go around with patches on her eyes. Although she tried to be strong, it was next to impossible for her and all of us, her friends, not to be nervous since the doctors said that even after the operation there was no telling whether she would ever be able to see again.
Now finally the day came where Suzie would take off the eye patches. I'll never forget how I felt that afternoon in the waiting room. Suzie, her mom and dad, and the doctor were all in his office. A bunch of us kids had tagged along hoping to celebrate the good news or at least be there for her if ... I didn't even want to think about it.
"They seem to be in there forever," I thought as I nervously leafed through every magazine in the waiting room. "Hey they're opening the door. I hear a lot of noise but is it laughing or crying?"
Finally they came out. We all looked at Suzie and held our breath. Suddenly she fell into our arms. "Thank God, I can see all of you!" she said through tears of joy.
The sight of our good friend looking us right in the eye was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen.
A few days later I got a phone call. "Hi Sherry, it's Suzie," she said as if I didn't recognize her voice.
"Hey, what's up?"
"Well," she said. "As you know this is a big, big miracle. So I'm making a party for all of us to celebrate our miracles."
"Don't you mean your miracle?" I asked.
Suzie laughed. "You know, just because I was wearing eye patches doesn't mean I forgot how to talk!" she joked. "You agree that it's worth celebrating that I can see, isn't it?"
"I'll say!" I gasped. "I can't think of a better reason to throw a party!"
"Well," said Suzie, "you can also see."
It doesn't happen often, but this time she left me speechless.
"Is it any less of a miracle, any less worth celebrating, that you and all the guys are able to see? While I was recuperating, I learned a lot of fascinating stuff about how the human eye works. You wouldn't believe how amazing it is. We should really throw a party each time we open our eyes!"
"Yeah," I said, "but you especially have something to be grateful about because you had to have an operation and everything, and now you can see again..."
She cut me off. "The way I look at it, as grateful as I am, you should be even more grateful since you're able to see even without having to go through an operation."
I thought about what she was saying. "You know Suzie," I told her, "you're really right. I'll be happy to come to our party."
After we hung up I realized how lucky I was to have a friend who, with eye patches or without, was able to see things that most of us can't.
Q. How did Suzie's friends feel when they found out she could see again.
A. They felt very happy and thankful that their friend was okay.
Q. What lesson did Sherry learn from Suzie?
A. She realized that everybody who could see had a lot to feel grateful about.
Q. Who do you thing appreciates something more:
- somebody who loses that thing and then gets it back, or
- somebody who never lost it in the first place? Why?
A. While in theory we should appreciate things even without having lost them, we all too often take things for granted. Sometimes only when we feel the loss of something are we able to fully appreciate its value. This is why Suzie was able to appreciate her eyesight more than her friends did. But the key to being grateful is to never take things for granted.
Q. How do you think it would change us if we could fully appreciate all of the good things in our life?
A. It would make us very happy. We all have a countless number of blessings in our life, any one of which would fill us with joy if we really appreciated it. When we teach ourselves to focus on some of this good -- be it our family, friends, health, possessions, or simply the joy of being alive -- we tap into a powerful tool to happiness.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Suzie had a close call and almost lost her vision. But through this experience she came to appreciate her vision more than she would otherwise. In your opinion is loss or threat of loss the only way to acquire the gift of appreciation? If not, what other methods are there?
A. Certainly the experience of lacking something is a powerful growth tool to deepen our appreciation although it can be quite painful. A more pleasant way of gaining the spiritual gift of appreciation is through making a serious effort to appreciate that which we have. We could do this by imagining what our lives would lack without these things, or by trying to increase our awareness of the good things in our lives as we encounter them. When we do this we will grow in our ability to appreciate the good in our lives and perhaps learn the lesson without having to experience loss.
Q. God instructed the Jewish people to bring offerings to Him in the Tabernacle to thank Him for the good He had given them. Does God really need our thanks, or our offerings for that matter? Why do you think He asked this of us?
A. God is the Creator of everything. Since everything already belongs to Him, certainly He doesn't need anything from us. Yet He has such great love for us that He wants to give us the greatest gift of spiritual growth and awareness. Developing a sense of gratitude is a big part of that growth. When the Jewish people would bring offerings of thanksgiving it would help them to realize all they had to be thankful for and it would help to awaken in them an ability to appreciate these things. In truth, although God doesn't need our thanks, we need to learn how to thank Him in order for us to grow.
Q. What are some good things in your life that you appreciate? Imagine for a moment your life without them.