I can best answer by telling you an incident that came to my notice while living on my homestead...
By reason of illness, change of location and storms, John H--had had no crop for three years and the family's cash resources were at low ebb. This year the wheat was growing well, the vegetable garden would "help out" and there would be hay. Frost had spoiled the corn and the potatoes were a failure.
In one night, in an hour, hail threshed out all the tender wheat and ground the beautiful bluestem grass into pulp. A summer's work and a year's provision gone!
I saw John and his wife early the morning after the disaster. They were smiling when they met me and their bright calmness made me weep. What they said to me, out of honest hearts, they had said to each other while the storm thundered on the roof and they guessed what was doing in their fields, "We are so thankful it was no worse. We have each other and the children, unharmed. The stock is not injured. The land is there. There is so much to be thankful for!" Then the dear farmer-wife and mother, turning to me, the older woman, said tremulously, "Don't you think we ought to be thankful of all of it? Surely there must be a good reason or it could not have happened? I'd be afraid to feel too badly!"
I looked thru tears over the stricken fields and the sun was smiling on them. I watched John carefully after this to see if the spirit of thankfulness was born of the hour's emotion or was deep-rooted. What I saw was a deepening of the accustomed reverence toward the Power that is above ours, even more tender watchfulness over wife and babies, an increase of industry and economy, a tightening of bonds between himself and neighbors who had suffered common loss. In short, by the exercise of humble gratitude in the face of the storm, he was a greater, finer man and every quality in him necessary to worthy success in life was made to develop faster and more fully by the presence within him of the fruitful spirit of thanksgiving.
"I thank you!" The simple, gracious words are like a prayer. Shall they not stand for a prayer-habit of our minds, sung gaily in the sunshine, whispered in the storms, heard always by the One who, the heart of the storm and sunshine, understands? The prayer will bring reply!