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The Virtue of Gratitude

In our modern, hectic society, what once was looked upon as the rule has, woefully, become the exception.  Manners, once, were second-natured.  Today, we look upon an act of kindness, a “second-mile” deed as out of the ordinary or exceptional in nature.    How can it be that in only a generation an act of kindness is viewed as extraordinary rather than ordinary?  In light of the gift of gratitude, let me share a story with you, one that will leave you grateful for your own circumstances, whatever they might be.  Last Easter holiday, I spent time with one of my sons and his family in Charlotte, North Carolina.  My twelve year old, sixth-grade grandson approached me with a book in his hand, In the Shadow of the Swastika.   As you might imagine, it was a story of World War II and the German occupation, this time, of Holland.  Earnestly, he begged to read the book.  The eighty-nine year old author had spoken to his Sunday school class and he was entranced with her story.

As an avid reader and an interested grandmother, I took the book and completed the two hundred and seventy- five pages overnight, being unable to put it down.  The author recalled her life when the Holocaust was, for those four years, a hell on earth for Jews.  Only eighteen at the time, the young girl hid with a friend in countless safe houses, provided by the Underground, yet quite expensive; constantly, she feared for her life since Dutch collaborators, for a hefty price, might turn them in.

She watched in anguish as her parents, hiding next door, were taken away by the Gestapo.  Word soon came that her young brother had languished and died in a concentration camp.  She learned that he had been taken to the gas chamber, playing his beloved violin.

Knowing nothing of Christ, she would later remark that during those desperate times, she felt something akin to the Holy Spirit urging her to leave the place she was in, going to another; in every case, the next day she found out that the safe house had been compromised, being raided shortly after she had left; had she stayed, she would have been caught and sent to a concentration camp, perhaps facing imminent death.  Through all of this horror, she was able to give thanks.

This young woman learned, as she said in her own words, “God protected me; the Holy Spirit guided me.  She confessed that her parents had never taught her about God, much less Jesus.  While her brothers went through Bar Mitzvah, the girls were never instructed.  Today, through her experiences, she is a Messianic Jew, a Christian believer.  As a believer, she is compelled to tell her remarkable story.

While we have not encountered anything remotely close to the Holocaust, we have our own private trials.  The way we handle the “setbacks” speaks volumes about us.  Beautifully, Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).  As we give thanks, we honor God, for we are acknowledging the source of that gratitude, God.

Janet Burke

About the Author

Retired English teacher, Janet Burke loves to write as well as do inspirational speaking. Her last years of teaching were devoted to developing curriculum to teach The Bible as Literature. A long-lost love of writing poetry was rediscovered, sparking a renewed interest in writing poems for special occasions. Cooking, writing, gardening, studying the Bible, and spending time with family and friends are a large part of her life now.