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In this season of Thanksgiving, we make a national holiday out of saying “thanks” (which I would hope is a year-round practice). When I think of this act of giving thanks, I often think of the story in Luke 17:11-19. In this story, Jesus heeds the cries of ten lepers, sends them to show themselves to the priests and, as they go, they are healed. One of them returns to give them thanks.

The one who returned was a Samaritan, seen as a sort of half-blood, second-class neighbor of Israel. They were often the villains, the mongrels, and the unfaithful in the stories of Israel. But I wonder if his heritage, his outsider identity, is exactly what drove him to come back to this nomadic, Israelite preacher and teacher. The Israelites, it seems, might have simply assumed that, because of who they were, they would be healed. They certainly had faith, at least enough to follow Christ’s instructions. But only the Samaritan seems to understand that this new health is not to be taken for granted. He realizes that it is a gift, unearned and unexpected, and that is why he returns. It is scandalous that the one to give thanks is the one whom Jesus should never have been interacting with in the first place.

In our culture, though, we are scandalized by the idea that only one of them, a mere 10% of those miraculously healed, would return and give thanks to Jesus. Surely the other 9 must have understood that their clean bill of health was a gift, too. But to be honest, I’m convinced that we maybe only recognize about 10% of our opportunities to give thanks as they come to us. Most of the things we can give thanks for flit by unseen, unappreciated, and unrecognized, just as most of those things are paid for by others.

The food we eat is gathered by others. The freedoms we practice are won by others. The clothes we wear are made by others. And it is easy to use them thanklessly and, even, begrudgingly. In a culture in which we are told we need more (I’m looking at you, Black Friday), it is very difficult to recognize and give thanks for what we already have.

I sincerely hope that, during this holiday season, you recognize the other 90%, the overlooked things for which we often feel entitled or fail to recognize, and say a prayer of thanks. Peace to you and may you find more reasons than ever to give thanks.

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