Gift of Thanksby Richard Long,

   Most of us Canadians are enjoying time with friends and family this Thanksgiving weekend.  Our family were able to enjoy a morning service at Burlington Alliance Church with some good friends today, which incorporated some great teaching, spontaneous sharing, and a Communion time that felt like a true “eucharist”.

(You knew that eucharistos in greek means “thanksgiving”.)

There is an excellent new book by Margaret Vissers that was published by Harper & Collins in 2008 titled The Gift of Thanks.  If you want a thorough study of this attitude of gratitude from a sociological viewpoint, this will be a treasure vault of ideas.

Here’s the description on the book jacket …

“Whether her subject is the food on your dinner plate or your table manners, Margaret Visser has been able, in five award-winning works of nonfiction, to uncover and explain the intriguing and unexpected meanings of everyday objects and habits. Now she turns her keen eye to an exploration of another custom so frequently encountered that it often escapes attention: saying “thank you.” What do we really mean by these two simple words? What are the implications of gratitude, and why are we so enraged when we meet its opposite?

This fascinating inquiry into all aspects of gratefulness ranges from the unusual determination with which parents teach their children to thank, to the difference between speaking the words and feeling them, to the way different cultures handle the amazingly complex and important matter of giving, receiving, and returning favours and presents. Visser illuminates the fundamental opposition in our own culture between gift-giving and commodity exchange, and the similarities between gratitude and its polar opposite, vengefulness. The Gift of Thanks considers cultural history, including the modern battle of social scientists to pin down the notion of thankfulness and account for it, and the newly awakened scientific interest in the biological and evolutionary roots of emotions.

In Margaret Visser’s hands, gratitude becomes a key to understanding many aspects of everyday behaviour. Enlightenment is drawn from folklore, mythology, and fiction, as well as from common customs such as the wrapping of gifts, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and the “paying” and receiving of compliments. With her engaging combination of curiosity and erudition, Visser once again reveals the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

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