John Houseman, the British-American actor following his Academy-winning role as Prof. Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase,” became more famous for his commercials for the brokerage firm Smith Barney. His signature look was wearing a bowtie with a three-piece Oxford tweed suit and reading glasses hanging on his lower nose. He always ended the Smith Barney commercials with his signature phrase in a firm, stern voice, “We make money the old-fashioned way. WE EARN IT!”
When I saw that, I said to myself, “That’s Ebenezer incarnate. Tiny Tim, don’t go near that man. You won’t get any sympathy.”
I want to challenge the prevailing American myth of hyper individualism of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and a presumptuous declaration of “I’m a self-made man.” Someone who declares, “I am a self-made man,” if there is such a thing, makes the job of the Creator a lot easier.
We often hear “There is no free lunch.” That is a lie. Your whole life was about having free lunch. You had a free lunch when sustained in the womb of your mother for nine months. You had a free lunch when you burst into this world suckling on your mother’s breast. You had a free lunch from your parents who put food on the table and roof over your head. You had a free lunch when soccer mom and dad drove you to practices and matches for months,
when they taught you how to catch, bat, kick, swim, hike, ride a bicycle. You had a free lunch from your grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbors, teachers and strangers.
You got a free lunch when your battery died a stranger jumpstarted your car, when ran out of gas and a stranger brought you a tank of gas, when your car got stuck in mud or snow and people passing by stopped to help push your car back on the road, when you were drowning a lifeguard rescued you, and in emergency someone called 911 for you.
You got a free lunch from free public education, got scholarships, when you collected unemployment checks, when natural disasters struck people came together to assist you in your recovery. The free lunch list goes on and on and on.
Tim Keller, a well-known pastor and American theologian, said, “Ingratitude is part and parcel of pride and self-centeredness, a deep denial of how dependent we are on God and one another. If we aren’t thankful, it’s because we don’t think we owe anyone anything.”
Indeed, we are recipients of grace. During this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks in all things!
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order,
confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend.”
~ Melody Beattie, an American author
Rev. John Song is the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church. For information, visit watsonville1stumc.org, call 724.4434 or email [email protected]. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.