Who Thanks Best

Who Thanks Best

Just a week before Thanksgiving Day, there hung in a bank window in Bostontown a beautiful painting of the Pilgrims for all the passersby to see. It was, as you have guessed, a painting of a Pilgrim family eating the Thanksgiving meal about the wooden table in their log cabin.

The table was bare of even a tablecloth. There was a big wooden bowl in the center filled with hot, steaming turkey stew. Pilgrims then, you know, were poor and food was often scarce in the winter.

At one end of the oblong table sat the stern Pilgrim father with his beard, and at the other end the Pilgrim mother with her gray hood over her head. Between them on both sides of the table sat the older children, and in the center of the picture sat a chubby Pilgrim baby in her high chair with her clean white bib tied about her neck.

Although the table had only one dish of food and no white linen tablecloth, no china dishes, and no silver, but only wooden forks and spoons and pewter plates on the bare polished board, still the Pilgrims were not forgetting to be thankful to God. Before eating one least bit of their food, they waited for prayer. The Pilgrim father, inviting his wife and children and the baby to bow their heads reverently, was saying a prayer of blessing for the food and giving thanks to God, the bountiful heavenly Father.

Now it was a very long prayer. The Pilgrims had a habit of saying long prayers, sometimes even as long as one half-hour. Many children found it hard to wait through the long prayer before they could begin to eat their dinner. While this Pilgrim father prayed, you could see his fine but stern face long, sad, and solemn.

At the opposite end of the table the seated Pilgrim mother was trying hard to listen patiently to the long prayer, even though she knew that her steaming stew in the wooden bowl was getting colder by the minute. She kept her hands folded on the edge of the table and her eyes tightly shut. She, too, was being faithful to this solemn duty of thanksgiving, even by means of a long prayer.

But the Pilgrim baby in her high chair, with her white bib on, was another story. She had her own ideas. Perhaps she tried at first to be good, to bow her head, and to keep her eyes shut very tight, but who could resist just a peek at the magic white clouds of steam rising from the luscious bowl of turkey stew, especially if the prayer had just begun the second quarter?

At last the baby, Pilgrim though she was, grew so hungry and so tired of the overlong prayer that she grasped the wooden spoon in her right hand and began to pound it up and down on the table, throwing her head back and her hands upward and exploding in sheer joy in her shrill little voice crying, "Whee, whee, whee."

The picture shows this very moment when the baby breaks into this grave and solemn prayer and interrupts the stern Pilgrim father's devotion by her exploding joy. The painter makes us laugh to see the long and awesome prayer breaking up under the force of the baby's uncontrollable spirit of joy. But I think the artist was doing something bigger than giving the passers-by in Bostontown just a chance to smile at the expense of the stern Pilgrim father. I think he was saying that there is more than one way to say a prayer of thanks. I think that he was saying that the baby with her radiant pink and white chubby face, with her tiny heart bursting with joy, and with her gleeful, "Whee, whee, whee," from her high chair was also saying to God, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you."

There are many ways of saying our prayers and sometimes the shortest prayers can come most directly from the heart. Jesus said that we are not heard for our much speaking nor for our long prayers. Isn't the best thanks we can give to God just to be "Thanks-living"? That means that every day and hour, we live as boys and girls who are so happy and grateful for our food, so glad for our homes, so grateful for our friends and our parents, so happy for our country and our church, that we are ready to burst with joy and exultant gladness of heart, remembering always that our heavenly Father is the giver of all these wondrously good and perfect gifts.

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