The Action of Thanks

Feliz día de acción de gracias. At least that’s how they say it Spanish. For most of us, the more familiar expression is: Happy Thanksgiving. 


As some of you know, I’m trying to learn Spanish for two reasons: (1) We have a growing Hispanic/Latino population surrounding our church, and (2) I travel a lot to Spanish-speaking countries. Entonces ahí vas—There you go.


One of the many qualities of español I have been enjoying is how precise it is in its vocabulary and sentence structure. For example, take “Happy Thanksgiving.” In English, we give this greeting countless times during the week of Thanksgiving, whereby we convey a blessing of happiness on a national holiday expressing gratitude for the harvest and for the preceding year. 


In Spanish, however, the wording is much more precise. Feliz (Happy) día (day) de (of) acción (action) de (of) gracias (thanks). Happy day of action of thanks.


What strikes me is the word acción: action. The implication is that we give a blessing of happiness in celebration of the day where we express ACTIONS of thanks. In other words, Thanksgiving is not just a day of commemoration established by Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 (or by English settlers arriving in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1619). 


The holiday of Thanksgiving may have its roots tied to the actions of those early immigrants, but in Spanish, there is a present-day association of action of thanks. We commemorate the past actions of gratitude expressed by seventeenth-century immigrants to the Americas, but we also celebrate our actions of thanks in the here and now.


This causes me to hit the pause button on life and ask myself, What are my actions of gratitude this Thanksgiving? What am I DOING, not just SAYING, that expresses thanks? Do my actions demonstrate gratitude, generosity, and grace, or do they demonstrate self-absorption, self-seeking, and self-centeredness?


What does it look like to act gratefully? As the old saying goes, It may be hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. My prayer this Thanksgiving is that you and I will act gratefully. We will share kindly. We will smile frequently. We will give generously. We will serve diligently. And we will rest peacefully.


The Apostle Paul instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This Thanksgiving, when we give thanks, may it not just be “with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).


To you and yours: Happy day of action of thanks.