Well, folks, it's that time of year again. Friends and relatives who are otherwise fairly social-media-silent have begun posting on Facebook something they're thankful for every day leading up to Thanksgiving. When I see these posts, I have historically rolled my eyes and scrolled on past, feeling that the tradition is somewhat cheesy. But this year it feels different.
2020 has brought a lot of things to complain about. I feel like I've spent more time this year worrying and criticizing than ever before. I would probably feel better if I spent more time consciously being grateful. In fact, science says so. Multiple psychological studies have found that gratitude can actually improve physical and mental health, sleep and self-esteem, along with other notable benefits.
This is not a new concept — Buddhist monks have been practicing gratitude meditation for centuries. In many Native American tribes, elders open ceremonies by offering prayers of gratitude. Ancient Hebrews and first-century Christians emphasized the importance of gratitude. We all know it's good for us to be grateful, but we need a reminder sometimes. I'm glad we have a holiday each year specifically for this purpose.
If you're a churchgoer like me, you might be familiar with the 1897 hymn "Count Your Blessings," by Johnson Oatman Jr. Its lyrics have been running through my mind lately, and I've noticed a lot of ways that counting my blessings might be the best possible balm for 2020. Look at what verses 1, 2 and 4 have to say:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
I don't know about you, but I've felt pretty tempest-tossed this year. Discouraged? Check. Burdened? Yep. Between natural disasters, economic stress, an intense election season and, oh yeah, a global pandemic, the last few months have brought no shortage of reasons to despair. But gratitude can help.
As we move into the Thanksgiving season, I hope each of us can find blessings to count and reasons to be thankful. I'll start. I am thankful that I live in a community where people care about each other and fight for each other. I'm grateful for people who look around for others to serve and put community before self. It's a blessing to be part of an interconnected, symbiotic culture. I'm thankful that the Worthington community has welcomed me.
How about you? Feel free to share what you're thankful for this year. Shoot me an email or mention me on Twitter @lwardglobe. I hope we can encourage each other to be thankful even when life is hard.