There are a lot of things to be grateful for. I specifically tried to choose things for this #givethanks campaign that were universal, that anyone could still feel appreciation for, no matter how many trials are going on in their lives right now.
Certainly there have been a lot of trials for people this year. Not only in the form of large, international disruptions, but also in the quiet, personal tragedies that are an inevitable part of life. And from our trials it is all too easy to either become cynical and jaded, or else to hide our pain down deep where it will fester. The fact is that we should both be able to feel the weight of our sorrow and embrace the reality of still being very, very blessed.
In our lives we have both trials and blessings. And we have both of them in the exact same moments. It doesn’t do to deny either for the sake of the other. Even as we mourn our losses, we can also have joy for the things that we can never lose. The things that do not break or expire. The things that are promised for eternity.
The balanced heart knows its own sorrows, but its resting state is one of joy.
I am grateful for divinity.
Many of the things I have already expressed gratitude for in this series can be considered a moment of God showing His hand in my life. A moving piece of music or a sincere and thoughtful tale. A pattern of mathematics. A mentor’s help and a child’s kindness. The variety of the world. The opportunities of time. The desires within us to make new and good things. The healing of the heart. I sense His divinity in all these aspects of life.
I believe that if each of us paused to consider the things we are most grateful for, we would recognize that they are the moments when we glimpse another side of our Maker. Our fondest memories are based around Him in one way or another.
It is true that we live in a fallen world, and it obscures our view of God, but He condescends to our presence in every way that He still can. When He does, these become the defining moments of our lives. They awaken in us the desire to be better. They make us to be our best selves.
I am grateful for passion.
People have an amazing capacity for doing extremely difficult things, so long as they are motivated by a pure desire. While having a hardship imposed on us by another is a terrible thing to bear, imposing our own hardships to accomplish something we are passionate for is a privilege!
Our greatest desires are a joyful irritant, they constantly discontent us with things as they are and convince us that they should be made better. From this restless desire for improvement has come the idea that a country could be run by a democracy, that a better painting material could be derived from oils, and that people could fly in machines. And while these accomplishments were the greatest revelation anyone could hope for in their day, the next generations were restless again to improve on them.
And so democracy is extended to people of every race, hospitals develop better sanitation, and technology connects more and more people together. We take the good that we already have and are driven to push it farther. Just because we want to. Just for our own personal satisfaction. What a wonderful system has been written into each of us, that we make the world a better place just by pursuing the most genuine desires of our hearts.
I am grateful for time.
Time is a powerful commodity, the greatest currency in our lives, one that we spend at a regular rate. And if we observe where we have passively spent that time it will reveal to us the things that we love most. For more than words and commitments, the proof of our devotion is where we have dedicated our days and hours.
But we can also consciously spend our time on the things that matter most to us. This is the surest way to guarantee that those things receive the respect they deserve. We can even spend time on the things that don’t matter to us as much as we think they should. After enough time is spent on something, we inevitably form a powerful bond to that thing.
And spending time isn’t all. We can also invest it. Even a small contribution each day can yield a powerful profit. And slow and steady contributions of a person’s time have resulted in some of the greatest work this world has seen.
In short, time is the currency by which everything we do gets done. It allows us to take a our current situation and, through time, improve on it. Given enough time, we can become the sort of person we want to be.
I am grateful for children.
I’ve always been able to understand these small persons much better than their adult counterparts. Children’s rules are far simpler, their criteria for being accepted into the group are far less cryptic.
A friend once pointed out to me how delightfully straightforward children are when expressing their needs. They have no shame in asking for our affection. Where we adults try to “drop hints” about what we want, children simply come out and say when they require a hug, or a kiss, or a snuggle.
I also love how their natural state is one of happiness and play. They are able to have fun for the pure joy of it, without trying to turn it into a competition or a money-making scheme. They do what they love, simply because they love it.
Without a doubt, children are the best people I know.
I am grateful for variety.
We didn’t have to have mountains and valleys and forests and tundras and deserts and islands and plains. It could have all been just one biome. But it isn’t.
And we didn’t have to have fruits and vegetables and herbs and spices and meat and grain. It could have just been one superfood. But it isn’t.
And we didn’t have to have art and music and inventions and dance and theater and humor and magic. Humanity could have only had cravings to do the work necessary for survival. But we don’t.
One of the greatest signs of God’s love is that the world isn’t only survivable, it is thriving. And it isn’t only sufficient, it is overflowing. And it isn’t just plain, it is beautiful.
I am grateful for second chances.
There is a childish fear in us that if we make someone upset our friendship is over forever. That if we are sent to prison we can never be a part of society again. That if we, or our parents, go through a divorce we will never be whole again. That if we do something wrong, there isn’t a reason for others to like us anymore.
In short, many times in life we have a sense of something breaking and we believe that now it must always be broken. And while sticks and stones might work that way, living things have always had a remarkable ability to heal. And so forgiveness and second chances and mended hearts are a very real part of life. And when it is the hardest to believe in them is when they need to be believed in the most.
I am grateful for creativity.
In the first case I am grateful for the ability to take what I imagine and represent it in a way that can be shared with others. I have found great satisfaction in writing stories and blogs, and developing programs and games. I find that pieces of me are expressed in stunning clarity through my creations, and I have discovered entirely new things out about myself through them.
And secondly I am grateful for the creations of others. A story, or a piece of music, or a work of art are better able to convince me of what is right and good than perhaps any other sermon. And it is often the imagination of others that inspires my own creativity as a response to it.
And this creative nature of ours is divine. We inherited it from our Heavenly Father, the most creative being in the cosmos. Those that He creates, themselves desire to create.
I am grateful for help and training. Now more than ever we don’t have to do things “on our own.” There are professional programs and free services to develop us in any way we please.
We can be trained in a new profession. We can be educated on any school subject. We can learn how to be vulnerable and better communicate with others. We can be guided in overcoming addictions. We can gain a better understanding of nutrition and exercise. We can pick up a new hobby. We can become fluent in another language. We can find the way to balance our budget.
Our world is full of counselors, teachers, and even random strangers who are ready to share their knowledge with us. We have the resources to become whichever best version of ourselves we want to be.
I am grateful for technology that makes it so easy to relive fond memories. The effort to preserve the images and sounds of loved ones goes back for centuries, but historically it has been greatly limited by cost, inconvenience, and physical constraints.
Today it is a very different story. I can ready a smartphone’s camera and speaker in a matter of seconds. I can preserve literally millions of digital imprints in terabytes of cloud storage. I can filter that mass by date, media type, and even faces that are recognized by ai algorithms.
Almost every day I call up at least one image or video of my children, and have a perfectly clear recollection of what they were like at each stage of their development.