“The world is full of secrets, gentle, shy things that some people know and some don’t. The best secrets are the ones that make us happy, and the best thing about any secret is sharing it with someone else who wants to know…”
Read these words with a child and perhaps you’ll find yourself the one longing for the secret to happiness. Or at least longing to be reminded, because happiness is fleeting when we forget to return to its Source. And to give thanks.
The Secret of Saying Thanks is a simple and profound text about the gratitude that can well in the heart at quiet moments of beauty and wonder. It reminds us of the goodness that surrounds us. Its genius is in its pacing: its gradual lifting of the heart from gratitude for small things to prayerful thanksgiving for love and mystery of all created things.
I once shared this book with a secular friend who loved it so much she read it to her family at Thanksgiving. The hints about the Source of the goodness that moves us to gratitude are subtle; prayer is only mentioned at the end, and in a way that’s open to interpretation. Since our Thanksgiving dinners may include many who see faith in ways different from ours, this book can unite a family around our common love of beauty and the impulse we all feel at special moments to simply say “thanks.”
Fine artist Greg Shed’s illustrations in The Secret to Saying Thanks shimmer and stir while the lovely lines of “author, illustrator, musician, wilderness guide, ‘Minnesota’s renaissance man'” Douglas Wood have the power to open the heart to the grace in the natural world and the grace of family love and the grace in every prayer of gratitude. It’s all bundled up in the mystery of expectation. You don’t know when you’ll discover the secret, but the book intimates that if you’re open to the possibility that the secret will reveal itself to you, one day it surely will.
“You may find the secret when you hear a bird sing and feel grateful for the gentle music of the skies, for flash of wing and brightness of feathers, for the good company of graceful creatures who dance upon the wind.”
Initially Wood suggests we thank the creatures themselves, each graceful flower and solid rock, for their being and for the truths they bring to mind. The goodness of the world revealed on each beautiful page continues to fill the heart. We are reminded of the grace and goodness of both simple creatures and of great wonders likes stars and water. The narrator’s intimation of a secret offers expectation that there will be a day when the secret will reveal itself to us: “Perhaps one day, taking a cool drink or paddling a canoe, or swimming or splashing in the sun, you will remember to say, ‘Thanks.'” Water gives us life.
Then we’re taken to a humble dinner table where a family (two grandparents and a girl) sits and the child offers the dog at her feet a tidbit. Our gratitude rises higher as we contemplate the people who kiss away our tears and hug us close. Perhaps that is the moment we’ll discover the secret.
“Or it might be in your bedtime prayer itself.”
We don’t give thanks because we are happy: We are happy because we give thanks.
The narrator addresses thanks to the things themselves, especially at the beginning of the book, and those who know God as Creator may be impatient with this secular yet mystical tone. The girl is shown with hands folded in prayer at the end of the book, however.
I’d suggest we let God sink into those cracks of mystery. What’s the point of thanking a rock or a river for being, unless, like St. Francis, we understand them as creatures (as we also are) made by a common Creator?
If around your table, like mine, there may be people who aren’t ready to ponder any more than that, then let’s simply surround them with His love and together enjoy the secret of saying thanks.
Reads and other Seeds
If you enjoyed this post you might also like Thank You: Words of Humility and Peace, which links to one of my favorite blog posts ever, habit expert James Clear’s Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations.
Visit Sparrowfare’s Fledglingfare page for links to more children’s book reviews.
“One of the simplest bits of evidence for the existence of God is the human instinct to give thanks.” Dwight Longenecker takes us back to Narnia (I’m always up for that) in his Thanksgiving reflection, Thanksgiving and Narnia’s Puddleglum.
For those of us grateful for a spouse of many years, The Blessing of Marital Monotony is a delightful read. Love Becker’s suggestion that we give those sweet cards with photos elderly couples to the newlyweds we know.
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