It’s hard to be thankful.
Really it is. Of course, if you live in America today, or any modern country, then that statement is counterintuitive; we have so much to be thankful for! It’s like asking a fish if it is wet; it’s so surrounded with water, so unaccustomed to anything else, that it has no idea what you’re talking about (or anything else, because this is a fish we’re talking about, but I digress). We are so surrounded by things for which we should be thankful, that we just don’t even see them.
But being thankful is hard, because the things that go wrong, the dark places in our lives, take up so much attention. It becomes hard to keep our eyes on the myriad of small, good things when there’s one big, bad thing screaming for our attention. And it does, doesn’t it? It screams for our attention constantly, until everything else fades out.
Here’s the catch: Those are the times when we are meant to be most grateful. You see, gratitude is tied to another, much more subtle character trait: humility. And humility is built—you knew this was coming—through hard times. Through suffering. Through pain and weakness. It’s why we have so many clichés about growing when the rain falls.
I’ve been doing some suffering myself lately. I’ve mentioned it openly on here that I have Crohn’s Disease, and that for the past few months I’ve been fighting off a flareup. I want to say that I stayed strong the whole time, never became discouraged, never stopped being thankful…but that would be a lie. The trees got to be so big that I couldn’t see the forest. It was hard, one of the hardest things I’ve experienced—and of course it could, and probably will, happen again, because that’s the nature of the disease.
It was debilitating. I had no choice but to be humble in every sense of the word. But then I realized, that humility helped me see the things I still had to be thankful for.
I still had my family.
I still had my children, and I count them separately because without their help around the house, everything would have collapsed.
I still had my friends, without whom I would have given up completely.
I still had things to occupy my mind, even when my body wasn’t cooperating. (Shameless Plug for a Friend time: Cyndera’s novel, Rivers of the Mind, kept me going on a few long nights, and you should absolutely read it when it is published. Also follow her blog!)
More than that, all of my needs were met, and I had nothing to worry about except fighting the illness. So, by the end of the ordeal, I found myself counting my blessings over and over.
Easy? No. Good for the soul? Absolutely.
So, as you sit down for your own Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, remember that your hard times are signposts. Remember that there are people who love you, and without whom your life would not be the same. Remember that we have blessings we will never even see, let alone acknowledge. And remember that Thanksgiving is both a day and a state of mind…no, a state of heart.
*This post was also published on my other blog at Thoughts of a Formerly Dead Man.