Thanksgiving: Recognizing God’s Influence

By Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh

Remember when you were in school and the time came when you would soon be breaking for the Thanksgiving holiday. Invariably, your teacher would ask you to write an essay answering the question, “What I am thankful for?” I was always thankful for my parents, siblings, and friends, essentially anyone who impacted my life at the time. I went to Catholic schools so we likely would include that we were thankful for our faith and all the influences it brought in our lives.

An interesting point to add here, if I were given the assignment today, I doubt my answer would be much different. I am so thankful for my husband, Jack, my children, Jack, Chrissie and Laura. I am so grateful to have such beautiful and wonderful grandchildren (Brandon, Rachel, Bella, Vivienne & little Lilah!) I am incredibly thankful they are all happy and healthy. And, of course, I’m thankful for my faith and the influence it brings to my life.

“Remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and look forward to the future with confidence” (St. John Paul II).

thanksgivingWe periodically look at our lives as a portrait into the past, present and future as St. John Paul has suggested. I catch myself doing this the older I get. But, what did I learn along the way in this process? Did I comprehend that every person I touched in this life was a gift and responsibility from God? Did I recognize that every person that I met is a lesson in tolerance, love and compassion? I hope the answer to those questions is yes. I believe with all my heart that God places people in our lives so that we can learn about his love for us.

As an example, I remember when I was told that I had cancer. With the help of my sister Judy, I was able to find the best doctor to care for me and do the surgery that was needed. My children stepped up to the plate with loving assistance that was so appreciated. My husband and I moved into the home of my sister Mary where she offered a place to stay for six months, essentially giving me a place to heal and because I had also lost my job; a place to spend the time looking for employment. This was a true gift of love. In my healing process, my daughter Laura met me at the mall everyday to walk so I could build up my strength. Employees at the various stores all pitched in giving me an “atta girl” when I was successful in walking the length of the mall with more ease. Laura was encouraging me to exercise and eat properly because she knew this was needed to get back on my feet. It seemed everywhere I went, whether it was going to doctor appointments, restaurants, places to get my nails done, grocery stores, it didn’t matter; encouragement flowed all around me. It has now been eight years and I’m now considered cured from cancer. I think it’s safe to say I am truly thankful for that. I feel blessed to have experienced such a display of God’s love during my fight!

As we gather around our turkey dinners, and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pies, we really need to assess those special moments where we have been blessed. Using this time as a point of reflection regarding things we are most grateful for is necessary if we are to recognize God’s influence.

When I was in eighth grade at St. Pius X School our religion teacher Sister Rita told our class that we were so fortunate to have been baptized Catholic. But our baptism came with responsibility. We needed to remember that we are God’s example to everyone we would meet.

So now it’s my turn to give you this same assignment. Your assignment, just like in school, is to write down what you are thankful for. When you have successfully completed this, say a prayer of gratitude for all those individuals who touched you and who you have touched. Never stop appreciating that all of this is your gift given to you from God of which you are truly thankful.

rsz_1cathyCatherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education at the University of Nebraska majoring in Special Education and minoring in English Literature and now works in the insurance industry. A mother and a grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and has spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband, Jack. A writer for Tuscany Press, she is also working on several longer writing projects.
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