I try my best to be grateful all the time. But some days I find it is much easier to focus on the things that bother me. Or the things I lack. Or the things that are wrong with the world.
I hate school uniforms.
I hate daylight savings time.
I hate drivers who don’t know how to drive properly. (And by properly, I mean “the way I want them to.”)
I hate the current state of political discourse in our country. (Which means I also hate Fox News and MSNBC.)
I hate the New York Yankees.
Sure, I hate some real important things, too: injustice, racism—institutional or otherwise, war, the death penalty, abortion, cancer, and unkindness. I hate it when people are not given another chance. I hate when prejudice trumps people.
But I don’t want to be known only for the things I hate. Granted, I want people to know about the things I hate. I want people to know I am someone who wants to help provide a voice to the voiceless because of my hatred for oppression and victimization.
But I want to be known for more than that. I want to be known for the things I appreciate; the things I am grateful for.
Gratitude can be difficult. The next several weeks usher in a time of thanksgiving. Social media will be filled with people who post what they are thankful for every day. Families will have children draw pictures and make lists of the things they are grateful for. Many people will balance the gift-getting with gift-giving to express gratitude. And all of these are great.
But let’s face it: these next two months will be sheer hell for a great number of people. Their lives have endured such pain and loss that they cannot bear to think about gratitude right now. More than that, they get sickened by all the gratitude around them.
When you are hurting and everyone around you is dancing, it is easy to think something is wrong with you or them. Or both.
One of the most painful facebook posts I have ever read was on a Christmas morning, posted by a friend who has endured the death of a child: “The cradle is still empty. I checked.” Can you imagine the pain of loss and how it is compounded when all around you is joy and cheer?
I do not think my friend wants to be known eternally as “the guy who lost a child” or “the guy who can’t get over it.” But I think every day of his life there will be some reminder of the pain of loss.
But maybe if you are in a similar situation, you want to be known for more than that. Maybe you want to be known for the things you are grateful for.
We need safe spaces to express our gratitude. That sounds a little odd, doesn’t it? But it’s true. We need to know that we can safely express our thanksgiving even in the midst of those things we hate; those things which cause us pain.
In her incredible book Uncommon Gratitude Joan Chittister writes, “But alleluia is not a substitute for reality. It is simply the awareness of another whole kind of reality—beyond the immediate, beyond the delusional, beyond the instant perception of things” (p. ix).
Alleluia—praise, thanksgiving—is not denial of the pain that exists in our lives. Alleluia simply means we can see more than what is right in front of us at that moment.
So I am beginning my own thankfulness project. I do not pledge to be perfect. I am sure some days I will forget. But here is what I am going to do:
Beginning tomorrow morning (November 4) I will post something on my twitter account* I am grateful for with the hashtag: thankful today. My item of thanksgiving may be related to people, something that occurred that day, a memory, a Bible verse, anything. My plan is for this to continue. I do not want to stop after 30 days or after the holiday season. I hope to do this every day as a reminder that no matter what is going on in any given day I have something to be grateful for.
And I ask you to join me. Share what you are thankful for. Use the same hashtag: #thankfultoday
Today, I am grateful for those of you who read my blog. Especially when I do a poor job keeping up with my posts!
Let’s all be grateful today.
*follow me at paulmathis2