When I was in grade school, I was required to read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I was completely engrossed in the story. I have always had a love for history, so I knew I would be fascinated by a book about the life of a teenager whose life was torn apart by the Holocaust. But, one particular entry touched me forever. On March 7, 1944, after almost two years in hiding, Anne wrote:
“And in the evening, when I lie in bed and end my prayers with the words, ‘I thank you, God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful,’ I am filled with joy.”
From that day on, I have ended my evening prayers with those words. I mean, if Anne Frank could thank God for all that was good, dear, and beautiful, I think I should, too.
It is easy to say “be thankful.” It has become a figure of speech to say “be thankful for what you have.” To me it has become trite. The person saying it is usually lecturing someone else and may not even abide by their own advice. That’s why Anne Frank’s Prayer is so poignant. So many people go into “why me” mode when something bad happens. No matter you encounter in your life, very little of you have lived through a tragedy of Anne Frank’s proportion. This 14-year-old girl had such love and hope in her heart. It is a beautiful prayer by itself, but knowing what was going on in Anne’s world makes it all the more touching.
Anne continues by writing:
“My advice is: ‘Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go out and try to recapture happiness in yourself and in God. Think of all the beauty that’s still left in and around you and be happy!”…I’ve found that there is always some beauty left – in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you. Look at these things, then you find yourself again, and God, and then you regain your balance. And whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery!”
What a wise girl! She was giving others advice as if she knew her diary would be published for the masses one day. She was giving advice that she, herself, could not even fulfill. She was not able to enjoy fields, nature, or even sunshine because she was in hiding and could not leave under any circumstances. But, hiding gave her hope. Hiding meant she was still alive.
On this Thankful Thursday, I encourage everyone to reflect on what it means to be truly thankful. No matter what our current struggle may be, let us pause to take in the beauty of what surrounds us, as Anne Frank did. God gave us life. We shouldn’t spend it in self-pity or negativity.
Anne Frank died exactly a year after she wrote this beautiful prayer and advice for the ages. She was 15 years old. She could still be alive today if her world had not been ravaged by hatred and bigotry. If Anne Frank can find it in her heart to be thankful, shame on us if we can’t find a little thankfulness in our hearts.
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