Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Thank-you Man

The Thank-you Man

Blind Faith  (No. 48, 2008)

        I can’t escape memories of “The Thank-you Man” when Thanksgiving rolls around.  “The Thank-you Man” was quite a celebrity on TV ads and shopping center, furniture store, and car dealership appearances about 25 years ago, at least in Kentucky and surrounding states.  His accent suggested that he might have begun his career in Texas.  I’m not sure how widely his fame spread.  If you missed his act, you should consider it a blessing!

        Everything about “The Thank-you Man” was overdone.  His white suit, string tie, and Stetson hat were garish, Texas-sized overstatements of Kentucky’s quiet and diminutive Colonel Sanders.  “The Thank-you Man” always made a boisterous sales pitch, whatever the product.  His speech and gestures were terribly affected.  His act was always the same.  In a voice alternating between staccato barrage and breathless wonder, he extolled the virtues of the product or dealership he was hawking.  And then … and then ….  The finale of the act was his real trademark.  With a sweeping doff of his hat, he would bow at the waist and drawl a prolonged, icky, “Tha-a-a-ank yo-o-o-ou-u-u-u!”  Often, the stores hosting his personal appearances sponsored “Thank-you Bow” contests, where parents dressed their innocent sons and daughters in all-white suits and paraded them in front of crowds to bow and curtsy and imitate the exaggerated “Tha-a-a-ank yo-o-o-ou-u-u-u,” in hopes of winning Dad a Barcalounger.

        The rationale for such spectacles (apart from the obvious profit motive of drawing a crowd for the retailer) was that the world needs more expressions of politeness and thanksgiving.  That certainly is true – only, I never felt any more thankful because of the "Thank-you Man" and his grandiose antics.  Real thanksgiving is not so ostentatious, stylized, and so smug.  Or is this the way we approach the celebration of Thanksgiving Day?  In most of our homes, Thanksgiving is one of the grand-scale productions of the year.  On the day set aside for thinking of God’s blessings and our proper response of thanks, we overindulge in extravagant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades, an endless stream of football classics, and over-set tables and overstuffed bellies.  If some thought of God does wedge its way into the hectic pace of the day, it may be little more than a "Tha-a-a-ank yo-o-o-ou-u-u-u, God!" and a brief curtsy before the feast (quickly, or you’ll miss the kick-off and the rolls will be cold!).  Is this any more genuine thanksgiving than the act put on by “The Thank-you Man?"

        While authentic thanksgiving can erupt in grand, exuberant displays, it may more often be a quieter, more personal expression of gratitude.  Awareness of the gracious gifts we have received because of the love and generosity of God and others, rather than from our own effort or goodness, should move us to a humble response of thanks.  True thanksgiving is not measured by the grandeur of the demonstration, but by the depth of heart-felt gratitude and faithful relationship nourished by giving thanks.

        Models for true thanksgiving abound in the Bible.  When King David had secured peace for Israel and had established Jerusalem as the capitol, he brought the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, representing God’s presence, into the city.  He established worship leaders to give thanks continually for the blessings God had bestowed on his people.  David led perhaps the first Thanksgiving Day parade, as the Ark was brought into Jerusalem, singing a psalm of thanksgiving.  The song is recorded in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles, and provides a good outline for both our reasons and our expressions of thanksgiving today:

Give thanks to the LORD and pray to him. Tell the nations what he has done.

{9} Sing to him; sing praises to him. Tell about all his miracles.

{10} Be glad that you are his; let those who seek the LORD be happy.

{11} Depend on the LORD and his strength; always go to him for help.

{12} Remember the miracles he has done, his wonders, and his decisions.

(1 Chronicles 16:8-12 NCV)

A good way to begin Thanksgiving Day in your home might be to read those verses aloud as a family, and to have a prayer of thanks –even before the dressing goes in the oven!

        Another good summary of the reasons for thanksgiving and the genuine expression of it is found in the New Testament.  This passage of scripture also reminds us of the qualities and actions we are to demonstrate to one another because we are thankful to God.  After reviewing God’s greatest gift to us – salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ – Paul calls on the Colossian believers and on us three times to give thanks:

      God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. {13} Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. {14} Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. {15} Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, because you were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful. {16} Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. Use all wisdom to teach and instruct each other by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. {17} Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. (Colossians 3:12-17 NCV) 

    This is another good passage of scripture to read together to begin the day, or as you gather for Thanksgiving dinner, followed by a prayer thanking God and asking for his strength to live the life described.

            Add to the reasons for giving thanks found in the Bible verses the trove of blessings we have received from our country, our family and friends, our communities of faith and society, and a whole day of thanksgiving might not be adequate for humbly saying thanks.  But we can try, not with the empty brandishments of “The Thank-you Man,” but with drawing closer to one another and to God, from whom all blessings flow.  Now, that’s thanksgiving.

            – J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.