pastoral/spiritual care

Subversive Thanksgiving

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”  - Anthony Robbins

Although you would hardly know it judging by all the Christmas decorations that go up the day after Halloween, there is another holiday to celebrate first.  And it may be more important than we realize, especially in difficult times.  As humans, we need to give thanks.  Even those with no religion to speak of, who believe there is no God to whom they can direct their thanks, have an inherent need for gratitude. 

Recently, the leader of a book study group in which I was participating gave us a homework assignment.  Every day, he told us, we were to write down five things for which we were thankful.  He called this “a subversive act.”  At first, I was unsure of his meaning.  To subvert is to undermine or attempt to overthrow an established system.  How could writing down a list of “thank you”s do that?  It was only as I completed the assignment that I began to understand.  Some days, it was easy to write down my gratitude for a beautiful sunrise, a phone call from a best friend, a good night at work, a walk on the beach, a long nap.  But there were also the days when I found out that my car needed several hundred dollars worth of repairs, or when I was in bed with a miserable cough that wouldn’t even let me sleep, or when a patient I had been praying for died.  On those days, the easiest thing to do was see all the things I was not thankful for, all the bad stuff I wish wasn’t a part of life.  Our society has practically made a cottage industry out of bitter complaining and finger-pointing when things don’t go as we would want them to go.  And lately, there is plenty to be unhappy about, the trivial things and the very serious, legitimate things.  It makes sense to complain about them.  That is the status quo.

That is why giving thanks is a subversive act.  I found that, even on the days when car troubles, illness, or tragedy intruded upon my life, I could still find five things for which I was grateful.  Writing them down, savoring the realness and goodness of them, felt like laughing in the face of the unfair world, refusing to be pulled under by bitterness.  It did not change my circumstances, but gratitude definitely changed how I dealt with them.  And most days, as I started writing my five things, they would remind me of other things, and my list grew.  My eyes were opened to how much I truly did have. 

As we sit around tables laden with turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie surrounded by loved ones on Thanksgiving, every one of us has a lot of reasons for gratitude.  Before we dig in to all that food (and football), we should take a moment and begin to name them.  It may take a lot longer than we think to say, “Thank you,” for all the blessings God has poured out on us.  

Dear God, we have so much to be thankful for!  Thank  you for the people we love, the roofs over our heads, the clothes on our backs, the food on our tables, the beauty of the world around us, and so much more.  You have blessed us abundantly, and for that, may we be truly grateful.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent

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