The untapped power of gratitude and casseroles


     My wife has never had to live under the pressure of having her cooking compared to my mother’s. Mom was an amazing person but not an exceptional cook. She typically cooked meat way past the flavor stage; daily scraped the black off of our burnt toast; and swore that the bread she had bought at the day-old bread store, frozen, and now thawed three months later, was “just as fresh.”

     But one thing mom did as well as or better than anyone was to create a casserole — that strange concoction of all the leftovers from the previous week’s meals. She somehow took inferior and mediocre meals and turned them into an amazingly flavorful medley.


     Stay with me here.


     I was raised in a home where gratitude was demonstrated regularly. My parents lived grateful lives. I never felt we lacked anything. What we did or did not own didn’t define us. How people treated us didn’t affect our sense of purpose. Disappointments and letdowns were opportunities to learn and grow. Life wasn’t segregated between good experiences and bad experiences. Rather, life was to be lived and every experience brought a certain, and needed, flavor.


    In essence, I grew up in an environment where life was like a casserole. And at the core of this Casserole Doctrine was gratitude.


    You see, my parents never felt anyone or anything owed them something — especially God or their theology. Life itself was the reward.


     But here’s what’s amazing: They somehow remained grateful through a miscarriage, through the death of a beautiful daughter, through the death of a precious granddaughter, through the death of an incredible daughter-in-law. I have watched Dad remain grateful after burying his wife of 66 years. As he moves swiftly toward his 90s, his gratitude is both astounding and convicting.


     Author Fred De Witt Van Amburgh once wrote, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.


     Life is not linear. That is, we don’t learn a lesson and move on, never to face it again. We often face the same challenge in multiple iterations, and if we’re not careful, we will fall into the “Why me?” trap.


     When life is more like a casserole than a five-course meal, gratitude is the chef that gives all the chaos and uncertainty an incredible flavor.


     And of course, that is exactly Paul’s challenge to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.



Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at

Pro-Life Mississippi