When I was young, somebody gave me a tape recorder, one of those big old reel-to-reel models, and I went through a phase of recording everything. One day I remember discovering that if you plug the microphone into the headphone jack while the thing was playing, you could hear the sounds coming out of the microphone just as if it were a headphone. It turns out the electro-mechanical stuff going on in the microphone was reversible -- if you sent sound waves into the top end, electrical pulses went out the plug, but if you put electrical pulses in the plug, soundwaves came out at the top. Amazing!
It turns out people are like this in some ways, too. If we're happy, we stand up straighter and put our shoulders back, and there's lots of evidence from psychological studies that if we start at the other end of the equation -- standing up straighter and putting our shoulders back -- we make ourselves feel happier. Your mother was right about the importance of smiling.
And so it is with gratitude. If we're grateful, we're more generous; and if we teach ourselves to be more generous, it makes us more grateful. That's the idea behind the United Thank Offering, a charity that's as much about the giving as the granting. People keep little blue boxes around their house, and put money in them to help encourage living a spirit of thankfulness. Here's how they describe it on their web site:
"United Thank Offering (UTO) is a ministry of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the whole church. Through United Thank Offering, men, women, and children nurture the habit of giving daily thanks to God. These prayers of thanksgiving start when we recognize and name our many daily blessings. Those who participate in UTO discover that thankfulness leads to generosity. United Thank Offering is entrusted to promote thank offerings, to receive the offerings, and to distribute the UTO monies to support mission and ministry throughout the Episcopal Church and in invited Provinces of the Anglican Communion in the developing world."
Anyhow, it's UTO ingathering Sunday this Sunday. If you have any little blue boxes around the house, please bring them in over the next couple of Sundays. And if you'd like to make a donation, please bring that, too -- UTO does good things with our money. And consider picking up a little blue box for the year coming up. There's going to be lots to be thankful for, God knows, so we may as well get started.