Do I Have to Be Thankful This Year?

This year has been filled with uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, and, at times, downright misery.  Do I have to be thankful this year?  Thanksgiving is all but cancelled for many, as are most other activities.  The weather is turning colder.  Covid lingers and continues to spread.  Some have lost jobs. Some have lost loved ones. Some have lost hope. The struggles are real. Is there really anything to be thankful for at the end of 2020?  

In my line of work in social services, I understand how a glimmer of hope and a feeling of gratefulness can affect someone.  Hope, positive thinking and gratitude can go a long way to bring someone out of a dark place. I find myself pointing out to my clients the good in his or her situation, but it surprises me how many times my client will be the one to say how they are thankful for what they have.  I am often amazed at their attitude and perspective despite the adversity they are facing.

I have seen a homeless man with no living family members and multiple health problems point out how his life was good. At the time, he could not walk very well and was quite ill.  He repeatedly told me that he was extremely blessed to be getting the care he needed and thankful for all that he had, which was very little.  He did not wallow in his troubles, in his lack of possessions, in his major health problems, in his inability to walk, or in his absence of family.  

I also met a lady who had not just one parent with Alzheimer’s, but both parents.  By the time I met her, she had her parents living with her and both were fairly advanced in the disease process.  I could not help but marvel at her outlook.  Although it saddened her that her parents did not always recognize her and that she had to provide 24/7 care for their health and safety, she could still see the good in the situation. She told me many times that she was grateful to have the opportunity to stay home, be their caregiver, and be able to give back to them for all they had done for her throughout her life.  

It is normal for people experiencing these and other similar circumstances to feel sad and hopeless, especially when the situation seems impossible to manage.  I can’t blame them.  I see some pretty sad cases.  But if I can help steer my clients to seek the positives in their story, perhaps their worries will lessen and their joy will multiply.  Same with you and I.  Even if our plight isn’t as dire or extreme as what my clients were enduring, it would be advantageous to search for the good.  Look at all you do have, not what you don’t have.  It gives you power over the gloom. Come on, if my clients can find the good in their lives, so can you!  

Thanksgiving may not look or feel the same this year, but we must “let our lives be full of thanks and giving” no matter what.  God is good, faithful and trustworthy. Psalms 9:1 says “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”  Gratitude changes perceptions and outlook and fills you with optimism and gladness. I love this quote from Eckhart Tolle about gratitude: “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation of all abundance.”  Do I have to be thankful this year?  No, but I choose to be thankful.  In this season of thanksgiving, may we each be filled with gratitude especially in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

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