Have you seen the old man, in the closed down market, kicking up papers in his worn-out shoes?
I’ve not yet been to London. Nor to Paris where the stories originated. I’ve lived in Manila. I suppose all such great cities have an old man kicking up papers looking for food. And an old woman carrying her house in two bags. And a forgotten war vet with dementia. And someone sipping a cup of tea, alone.
Ralph McTell did us such a favour. He wrote ‘The Streets of London,’ gently calling us to change our minds; singing those stories against our own sense of entitlement or ingratitude.
I heard, somewhere, that our brains require a challenge to function well. So, in the absence of greater problems to solve, the biggest thing we’ve got becomes the biggest thing there is. Like the washing machine on spin cycle, we can whirl around with our concerns at the centre, unmoved by all that’s flung to the sides. So Mr McTell croons to us “…let me show you something, to make you change your mind.”
Sing to me, Mr McTell, sing to me. Help me change my mind.
There’s a growing body of scientific research that demonstrates the health benefits of gratitude. One summary of the research tells me that gratitude does so many good things: it opens doors to relationships, improves physical health, improves psychological well-being, enhances empathy and reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves self-esteem, and increases mental strength.
I do chuckle a bit when ‘science discovers’ something that grandmas have taught to generations before us: “Say taah,” “Did I hear a thank-you?” and simply saying grace before each meal. An old hymn still echoes around musty church halls “count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done…”.
The scriptures call us to this thanksgiving:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, … and be thankful.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Gratitude to God is more than a clever use of psychology research to enhance our wellbeing. The good things science is discovering about gratitude ‘work’ because of how and why God made us. Thankfulness to God is at the centre of biblical worship.
Gratitude to God reorients us in His world. It re-centres us in Him, and so rebalances our self. Giving thanks to God lifts our eyes beyond ourselves, and frees us to grasp God’s vision for his world. And so, thankfulness to God enables us to live fully as we are created – in the Image of God, purposefully and energetically bringing His influence to His world, for His glory.