This Thanksgiving season, I’ve been thinking about people who translate thanksgiving into thanksliving. These are the people who make a difference for good and God in the world. My observation is that most of them serve others out of their gratitude for their own blessings. Their motto seems to be “Blessed to be a blessing.”
The beautiful results of such a life were evident to me several years ago when I visited Berry College in Rome, Ga. Actually, the miracle in the mountains of North Georgia began when a young, aristocratic woman, Martha Berry, went to her log cabin retreat on her father’s vast estate. One afternoon in 1902, she became aware that mountain children were peeping in to watch her. She invited them in and enthralled them with Bible stories. She was launched on a lifetime of service in education.
Donating 83 acres of her land, Berry bought lumber and organized working parties to build a boarding school. She named the entrance to the eventual college “The Gate of Opportunity,” and the gate swung both ways. Students entered to learn and left to serve.
Though her family was wealthy, their wealth couldn’t cover the cost of more buildings, teachers and equipment. For the school to survive in that era, funds outside the South were needed.
Though it took some time and the overcoming of her terrible shyness, her list of supporters read like a “Who’s Who in America” — Andrew Carnegie, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Eastmans (of Kodak fame), the Firestones, the Krafts, the Rockefellers and the Wrigleys.
The largest benefactor, though, was Henry Ford. The Gothic buildings in the Ford Complex at Berry College are as magnificent today as when they were built.
When Martha Berry died in 1942, her body was buried on campus, where students, former students and friends filled the grounds to walk behind the casket to the chapel. They did that, not because she had been named one of America’s 12 greatest women, but because she had translated thanksgiving into thanksliving.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. Contact her at nell firstname.lastname@example.org.