Is there a difference between a house and a home? According to the authorized dictionaries, these two terms are synonymous. In my mind, however, there is a distinction. Before we moved into our current residence, we walked through the 'house.' The walls were bare, cabinets were empty, and there was no furniture. It was a house, but today it is our home. We live there.

I think of a house as a cold word referring to a building made of raw materials. Home, on the other hand, is a warm, familial word that implies security and acceptance. Sales agents likely will say that they want to show the prospective buyer a 'home' rather than a 'house.' Why? Because the idea of a home is more inviting, more intimate, and more personal.

Similarly, the dictionary makes no distinction between the words 'thankfulness' and 'gratitude;' both are terms of appreciation. Nevertheless, there may be a slight difference between the two in terms as far as their implication is concerned.

I was taught early in life to say "thank you" whenever I received a kind gesture from another person. It may be a compliment, or a gift, or any number of manners. In those early stages of training, my parents would ask me after a kindness, "Did you remember to say thank you?" So, these became words of mental assent recognizing the consideration of others towards me.

Gratitude, however, is a response -- or attitude -- that springs not from the mind, but from the heart. It tends to carry more emotion with it than a simple thought of thankfulness.

The biggest shopping day is still Black Friday, despite the stores taunting for shoppers to begin on Thanksgiving Day. December 26 remains the biggest day for returns and exchanges. We all have received gifts we did not need, or want, or like, yet we were still able to muster up a "thank you" to the giver. Gratitude, however, is not so much about the gift as it is about the act of kindness itself.

Both thankfulness and gratitude involve a response. Thankfulness motivates us to say something out of appreciation; gratitude inspires us to do something. Thankfulness acknowledges an act of kindness; gratitude desires to repay it.

One clever little saying goes like this: "As you live your life, make this your goal: always look at the doughnut, and not the hole." It is easy to fall into the habit of seeing the negative side of things, like noticing the hole in the middle of a doughnut. We are surrounded by blessings everyday, and even adversity can result in blessing if we allow ourselves to see it.

Thanksgiving is one day that reminds us of how very blessed we are, but living everyday with an attitude of gratitude results in a joyful heart. A joyful heart makes the world so much brighter.

Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.

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