I was out walking when a cold wind struck my face. Without thinking, I quoted aloud,

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.” 
–William Shakespeare[1]

My mother memorized these lines in high school. For some reason, they stuck with her. Whenever a cold wind slapped her face, it jarred the words from her memory. And she did not simply say the words, she performed them in dramatic fashion! She did it so often that, like it or not, I can quote it verbatim.

Gratitude was one of Mom’s super powers. It’s funny, I never connected this to Shakespeare’s words until recently. Because after I quoted him, my thoughts immediately turned toward the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving is America’s gratitude holiday. After the Pilgrims’ first winter in Plymouth, almost half of them died of starvation and disease.[2] One year later, the fall harvest was plentiful. The pilgrims gathered to thank God for his provision. In Governor William Bradford’s words:

“They also set apart a day of thanksgiving … By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God.”[3]

Overwhelming loss awakened overwhelming gratitude for life’s basic necessities—the things we often take for granted. Four hundred years later, it seems the more we have, the further we move from Thanksgiving’s original intent. The holiday brings to mind succulent turkey, pumpkin pie, family gatherings, Black Friday sales, and a long weekend off work. Gratitude, well, it’s an afterthought.

Which brings me back to my dear Mama. For she intentionally practiced gratitude. Often, she’d call and say, “Peggi, did I thank you for …” Or if I rendered my father some small kindness, she’d gently nudge him and ask, “Did you thank your daughter?” She sent multitudes of thank you notes. If ingratitude stings like a winter wind, my mother’s gratitude refreshed like a summer breeze.

Mama is safely home in heaven now. But if she were alive, I wonder how she’d intentionally practice gratitude this Thanksgiving. Though not so dire as the pilgrims’ first winter, we have all suffered loss in the pandemic—deaths, serious hospitalizations, lay-offs, businesses permanently closed, in-personal contact, weddings and events and trips cancelled, and more. As with the Pilgrims, will loss awaken gratitude?

More importantly, as Shakespeare emphasized, ingratitude is harsh and unkind—especially to our good and generous God. We still have much to thank and bless him for. I’m grateful for his love, his peace in a tumultuous time, and his gift of eternal life. I thank him for my health, family who will gather around our holiday table, dear friends, a full refrigerator, and no shortage of toilet paper! Hallelujah! What are you grateful for?  

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought,
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
–G.K. Chesterton[4]

[1] William Shakespeare (1564–1616), As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [Blow, blow, thou winter wind]

[2] https://www.weatherconcierge.com/the-pilgrims-barely-survived-a-harsh-first-winter-at-plymouth/

[3] Bradford, William (1856) [1620–1647]. Charles Deane (ed.). History of Plymouth Plantation. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. OCLC 45416485

[4] G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer, journalist and Christian apologist

Peggi Tustan is an ordinary woman living an extraordinary real life in Christ. I write, teach, and mentor women in Northeast Ohio. As my mother’s daughter, I’m working on being intentionally grateful! Stop by and visit me at www.peggitustan.com.

Cover photo courtesy of Peggi from Christmas 2011. From left, father Cyril Salva, Peggi, sister Theresa Keeler, mother Mary Salva.