Not Just Thankfulness

I’ve been a little paralyzed to write lately. Any time there is something that might be worth writing about, I can’t help but to think about all the ways that it might be taken the wrong way, or be misconstrued, or appear ignorant or uninformed or intolerant or heretical or any other thing that we don’t want to appear to be these days. Any potential post is immediately followed by a list of ways people could have a negative reaction to it. With the amount of disunity, anger, and frustration to be found on the internet, the last thing I wanted was to accidentally contribute to it.

I like to write because I want to be encouraging to others. I like to write because it allows me an opportunity to express into words some of the thoughts that are floating around in my head. I like to write because it gives me an opportunity to try to hold up just a small candle of light amidst a lot of darkness. But lately I have been too scared to do that. I don’t think that I hold tightly to any offensive/controversial/hateful opinions, but I have been too nervous to find out. So now that Thanksgiving is approaching, I thought, Finally! A warm and fuzzy holiday that I can safely write something positive and encouraging about. As I thought about how many things I should put on my public list of things that I am thankful for, I realized that even this wasn’t that simple.

I have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. I like to remind myself of those things often. I would love to type out a quick list of things that I’m grateful for, post it, and hope that it somehow resonates with you and causes you to be grateful for similar things in your own life. But the more I thought about that, the more it just felt, insensitive. Because while I sit counting my blessings and wanting others to do the same, I know that right this moment in Chattanooga there are families that are sitting in immense amounts of grief, loss, pain, and heartbreak in the wake of a tragic accident. I know that down the street from my apartment there is a man with a cardboard sign who may not know where he will spend Thanksgiving. I know that people across the globe will be hungry when they go to sleep tonight, and when they wake up tomorrow they will still be hungry, and gratitude might not be the first thing on their mind. For some reason, I don’t think that my list of things that I’m grateful for would be encouraging to all of these people.

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What’s my goal in writing this? I’m not really sure. To discourage you from expressing gratitude about good things in life? No, I really do believe that expressing gratitude is a good and right thing to do. Is it just to make you feel bummed out for other people so that you will feel more grateful about your own situation? No, I don’t think that gratitude by comparison is very effective or sustainable, and it sure doesn’t feel very sensitive.

Perhaps what I’m really after here is thoughtfulness. That we wouldn’t make generalizations about anyone’s circumstances. That we would attempt to understand the perspective and feelings of others. That we would consider, care for and pray for those who are grieving during this season. That we would be compassionate. That we would be gracious towards people we disagree with. That we would learn to appreciate the fact that life is hard and great and complicated and sad and nuanced and beautiful, all at the same time. I pray that today, and this week, and in the days ahead we would not just be grateful, but thoughtful, understanding, considerate, compassionate, and gracious.