It’s never easy to be thankful. The fact that religious traditions ritualize giving thanks should be proof enough. Being thankful requires a consciousness that we are not the center of the universe, that the world does not exist with us as its purpose and end. This awareness is, arguably, the start of a religious consciousness – a consciousness whose requirement goes beyond simple gratitude to the more challenging responsibility that we hold towards the world and our fellows.
It’s even more difficult to be grateful when things are not going well. When we are happy, enjoying life and family and the things that we have, then it’s easier to feel gratitude and to express it – in a toast, let’s say. But when we’re stricken, or suffering, or bewildered, gratitude and expressions of thanks do not always come so easily. No one toasts that which they don’t like, which has them afraid.
This Thanksgiving, many of us find ourselves in both places. We are a bit off-balance, shaken by the political tumult and impending sense of doom around us. The anxiety and disorientation make gratitude a hard feeling to apprehend. Yet, if we can sequester those feelings that we live in a “world turned upside down,” we can register the goodness that also is ours. And then we can feel grateful for things we don’t deserve but enjoy nevertheless.
The list of things for which I am grateful is quite long: my family, my friends, the work I do with you that enlivens me so, the teaching I love so much, the safety and security I enjoy, this country in which I am safe – the list, of course, doesn’t end there. I am thinking of all of those things on this day set aside for something more important than turkeys and football.
And thinking of all that crowds out, if only for a little while, the many fears and anticipations that so often overshadow my thinking these days.
I wish you and your families success in finding the elusive ability to locate gratitude in an often dark and threatening world. A happy Thanksgiving to you all.