There was a stretch of years in my 20’s when I struggled with whether or not one could be authentically grateful in a world with so much injustice. The more aware I became, the more tainted were the ‘blessings’ I enjoyed. Gratitude, it seemed, involved temporarily closing one’s eyes to the bad stuff and giving thanks that, despite it all, me and the people I most love have got it pretty good. It didn’t help that our national holiday of Thanksgiving could also be told as a story of disaster and loss for American Indians.
But I no longer think this way.
Specifically, I no longer think that gratitude is a betrayal of solidarity with suffering. At least it doesn’t have to be.
The people who have taught me most about this are, predictably, those whose lives are way harder than mine. Through their witness it has become clear that gratitude is not an act of partially closing one’s eyes, but rather an act of opening one’s eyes to a deeper reality that no act of injustice can take away. Suffering can actually make one more grateful, and the decision to live a life of gratitude is as powerful an act of resistance there is against all that’s wrong with the world.
Just coming off of a learning tour of Palestine and Israel, I’m carrying some heaviness with me. We witnessed some hard stuff, as so many Palestinians are living at the edge of a bearable existence. But I join with the Palestinian friends we made, and people everywhere, in cultivating gratitude as an act of resistance, an act of survival, an act of purifying the soul so easily polluted with despair.
For beauty – Thank you!
For breath – Thank you!
For friendship – Thank you!
For love. For love. For love. Thanks be to God.
May your week of giving thanks open your eyes to the wonder of existence, and may our gratitude radiate and overflow and multiply throughout this grief-stricken world.
With gratitude for each of you and the gift that you are,