Being thankful is difficult for me almost all of the time. It's difficult because I'm often focused on the greener grass across the way. It's difficult because I'm distracted by all of the noise to my left and to my right. It's difficult because most days I have to take a little blue pill to help me see the good, rather than the bad. It's difficult because I exist in a world that is generally small, safe, and filled with people that look like me, speak like me, and own lots of things that they probably don't need, just like me. I forget to take the time to say thank you and instead catch myself grumbling about, in no particular order: Work! Broken cars! Jiggly thighs! Bills! Dog hair! I accidentally bought the wrong kind of almond milk! And, ugh, no one understands me! Soon, the gratitude gets buried under layers of minor inconvenience, discomfort, and stress. Excavation has to be initiated and shovels have to be located. And then sometimes I skip the shovel altogether and find myself on my hands and knees, desperately seeking out even the smallest corner of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of acknowledgement. I call loved ones. I talk with friends. I write. I pray. I take walks. I make out with my dog. You get the picture. It can get tough around here.
But then something happens- something like what happened this past week in Paris. And suddenly, the previous layers of ridiculous problems are obliterated in one swift glance at CNN, and gratitude aggressively erupts. We see images of a world beyond our own - people in pain, people immersed in fear, people desperately trying to make it to the next moment, hour, meal- and we realize how unbelievably good our inconvenience, discomfort, and stress really is. We are no longer distracted by the noise. The new things don't seem so shiny and pretty. We tell those we love how thankful we are for them. We gladly pay our bills, fix our cars, buy our almond milk, and go to our jobs. We look for ways to help. We gain perspective, quickly, and wave a large, significant flag of gratitude. We are thankful, sincerely, and vow to hold on to this flag for as long as we can. Sometimes we do, but more often, we don't.
Thanksgiving is days away. I will drive to see my loving, healthy, appropriately dysfunctional family and we will laugh, tease, analyze, and love with the best of them. We will tell each other what we are thankful for. And then I will return to a warm home, filled with well-worn and special things, and I will prepare to go to a job that challenges me, inspires me, and allows me to practically help a population of students that I would otherwise not have access to. I will open my fridge and see fresh, delicious food. I will use my phone to connect with friends. I will pull my healthy body out of bed and walk, run, jump, and dance- because I can. I will move through a life that is rich, safe, and good. I won't be concerned about my safety or my freedom or where my next night of sleep will occur. I will have the support I need to make it to the next day, and the day after that. Most likely you will too.
But here's a question: Do you ever wonder what would happen if we became a community that was instinctive and consistent in our ability to be thankful? Have you ever considered the magnitude of reach that such a community could have? I do. And I have. I so want to be a woman of frequent gratitude. I'd like thank you to be a more common part of my vocabulary. I'd like to hold on to my flag, so to speak, and wave it an obnoxious amount. I don't want tragedy to always be the most powerful catalyst for my gratitude, or for yours. I'd like for thanksgiving to occur outside of the impending turkey dinner or annual Friendsgiving brunch. I'd like my heart to remind my brain of what it so often forgets - that there is such power and generosity in gratitude, and that acknowledging the good, regardless of the bad, is simultaneously beautiful, difficult, and miraculous. I'd like to not have to excavate so deeply or so often. But I need your help. And you need mine. Let's remind each other of the good when we can't see it for ourselves. Let's point out the ways we are unbelievably blessed and not wait for CNN to do it for us. Let's practice saying thank you as much as we say THIS SUCKS and see what happens. Small changes give way to crazy evolution. And what you cultivate in your heart gives way to how you interact with your world. This week has continued to demonstrate just how much our world is hurting. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to be better within it so that I can give more generously to it. Taking the time to sincerely and lovingly say merci seems like a pretty logical place to start.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.