Thankful for the bad which gives context to the good

Some years we don’t feel thankful. Some years are just that difficult. This has been one of those years for me. Perhaps you are in a similar place.

Perhaps death has visited your home, too, this year, casting a shadow on even the joyous occasions you have celebrated. Or maybe this year was simply a marker of a loss from years past and you find that healing is taking more time than you expected.

Maybe you, like myself, lost a job you cared about, one you needed financially and had invested in personally. The feelings of failure and defeat can be difficult ones to overcome.

Maybe your day-to-day life has changed in ways you weren’t expecting as you find yourself caring for family, friends or neighbors who need the extra help. Though it is always a joy to help those we love, it is not always easy work. Maybe you’re tired.

Or maybe you’re the one who needs caring for now. Perhaps your life has it a bend in the road that requires you to walk a humble path for a time. For most of us, that is not an easy change.

Perhaps you are just feeling alone this year.

Privileged to live in a country where most of us have jobs that cover at least our basic cost of living, where medicine has kept so much death and disease at bay and where there is little fear for loss of life or livelihood at the hands of the government or hateful majorities, perhaps you, like I, sometimes feel as though our society has not been equipped to grieve loss and change, both big and little. If you are blessed to have had very few experiences with real loss, you might find yourself unprepared when you face it. If you know the feeling well, maybe you are beginning to feel overwhelmed by the unending queue of disappointments and grief. And in a feel-good society that is always focused on the next happy ending, maybe you feel like your bereavement period was cut short or missing something, like no one ever knows what to say or do to be helpful or even to validate the grief you are experiencing. That, too, can be isolating.

And yet, I think understanding loss is crucial to be truly thankful.

As the full glory of spring comes only on the tails of a bitter winter, so the gratitude of a broken heart rings clearer than one that has no scrapes or scars.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a difficult year.

I am thankful for the deeper understanding of loss and heartache I was given this year because it has better prepared me to be helpful to those who are hurting.

Although I cannot rejoice in the loss of life, it has made me better appreciate the breath in my own lungs, the beat of my heart, the soulful glint in the eyes of the people I love. The world I knew once to be wrapped in the cozy trappings of safety and security has been revealed to be temporary and turbulent, and I find the life inside it all the more precious because of that tempestuous nature. Life is such a gift.

I am thankful I have hands to work hard and a mind to be put to use. I am thankful for new beginnings and the opportunities afforded us in this great country to continue pushing onward and upward, even if we are starting from scratch.

I am thankful I have people to care for and who care for me. I am thankful that God allowed our weaknesses to be redeemed by the strength of others, that someone might always be growing and giving and therefore gaining.

I am thankful for the valleys of life that remind me not all paths are easy or beautiful and not everyone gets to walk an easy road. I hope this knowledge will make me a more empathetic and compassionate friend and neighbor, and a more grateful recipient of the blessings of comfort and ease when the come.

I am thankful for nights when you can see the stars, even here in San Diego! I am thankful for still mornings and rainy afternoons and all the things that remind me that the world is beautiful and I have been granted time in it.

I am thankful for time – that mystery of life that keeps us changing, growing.

And I am thankful for a God who orchestrates all things – nothing random, nothing unexplained in the divine context – who comforts me through seasons of sadness and walks with me as a friend till the road leads to green pastures and quiet waters.

I am thankful for the setting aside of a special day when I can join others in stepping back and seeing the good that is blooming in hard places all around us.