The Practice of Gratitude

The Practice of Gratitude

I write this article a week before our national election, as the number of cases of COVID-19 are on the rise to new heights. To say that we are living with uncertainty and anxiety would be an understatement. Will there be post-election chaos as mail-in votes are counted? Will there be unrest taken into our streets? Will an increase in coronavirus cases send us into renewed practices of seclusion as the days grow shorter and colder? Already, we are hearing messages from some, encouraging us not to have large Thanksgiving gatherings.

In a time of challenge and sacrifice, it is especially important for us to find spiritual resources and practices to sustain us. Thanksgiving is, I believe, one of our most spiritually insightful holidays. It is based in the simple act of gathering around a meal in order to give thanks for our lives, our country, and the bounty which is before us. I love Thanksgiving because of its inherent simplicity. Sure, there is excess—the over-eating of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, and the like. There are lots of carbs and other tasty dishes. But unlike many other holidays, there is not total commercialization, because its basic premise is simply to gather and give thanks; and, of course, to eat!

Maybe, we will experience loss this Thanksgiving. We might not practice it in the ways we did before. Maybe not. But this is one holiday that can remain rich and intentional, no matter what. In fact, its enforced simplicity of smaller gatherings might even serve to focus us on its true significance. It reminds us of our dependence on the fruitfulness of the earth, on the work of those who produce, harvest and deliver our food, and on God’s eternal goodness and faithfulness.

The experience of loss and difficulty have a way of bringing us into focus on what is important. Challenge wakes us up to the blessing which is our life. We can be reminded that what really brings us happiness and wellbeing are relationships of love, the earth, and the blessings of creation. Yes, these are difficult and uncertain times. All the more reason to practice thanksgiving this month and every month. God’s blessings to you all!

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