The Platitude of Gratitude

Go beyond just being thankful.

by April Jones

As the year draws near its end, we come upon the season of gratitude and Thanksgiving. It is a time when we begin to reflect and plan to give. But for many, this season is difficult. It can be hard to find or express gratitude when we consider the loss of loved ones. The holidays can be most unbearable when those we loved have moved on and are no longer here to celebrate or enjoy them with us. It can also be difficult when you feel you’ve lost everything.  Many have lost homes, jobs, resources, hope and even sanity this year. Our nation has been in upheaval, and great uncertainties have left us hanging in the balance.

We are a nation of abundance in spite of recent economic downturns. When our homeless still tote cell phones and sport gold chains, it’s evident our ideas of loss and poverty are not what many countries know. We have come to believe that if we are unable to obtain all the material possessions we desire or uphold the status quo of new car, new clothes, new house and annual vacations, we have been deprived. Heaven forbid one need cut off the Internet or cable for a month to save money! Since when did any of us need all of the newest, hottest and fastest in technology, fashion or travel?  We have become a generation consumed by self and have developed an identity based on outward affirmation and the ability to obtain, do and be more.

I don’t wish to minimize anyone’s circumstance, but I do want to expound upon a few incredible things we can reflect upon should we find ourselves feeling poor of heart or spirit. I dare not dive into politics, but may I confidently express that we are a great nation that was built to ensure the “pursuit of happiness” to anyone that placed foot upon this soil and dared go after it?

Many of us take for granted the incredible freedom we have to express our opinions, beliefs and identities. We would rather complain about our circumstance than rise up to change it. We would rather wallow in our pride than admit we might be wrong. We would rather seal ourselves up in anger, hurt or frustration than deal with our pain and choose to walk out of it stronger, happier and healthier.

It is easy to blame our current state of affairs, be it lack or want, on others. It is easier to point fingers than acknowledge our own responsibility. It is easier to say, “You hurt me,” than to say, “I am hurting.”  It is easy to blame our leaders or corporations. It is easy to blame our lovers, children, bosses or parents. But the reality is that we are responsible for our own lives. Very few of us are suffering due to the heavy hand or poor choice of another. Each of us makes a choice daily to be involved, make a difference, pursue happiness or sit on the sidelines. I can wallow in my depravity. I can swim around in a sea of sadness, sorrow, grief and lack. I can also sit with my circumstance, acknowledge my part and set out a course for change.

We are given so many opportunities and blessings, and yet we miss them by being so self-absorbed. When is the last time you went without a meal? Spent weeks sleeping without heat or running water? Depended on a shelter for a safe place to spend the night? Had a meal in a food line? Was unable to express your beliefs without fear of being slaughtered in the streets? Didn’t know how you were going to feed your children? Wore shoes so worn your toes touched the Earth?

We are beyond a blessed nation; we are a spoiled one! Spoiled by our conveniences, our cookie-cutter houses, our designer jeans, our newest downloads and our comforts. We are gluttonous, self-indulgent and drunk on the consumption of whatever fills our fancy. Get still this season, really still. Consider the many luxuries you have been afforded and the life you are living. Consider the roof over your head and the clothes on your back. The food in your fridge and the gasoline in your car. The freedom to choose leaders for our nation. The freedom to worship. The freedom to be yourself.

Now consider those who have nothing. Those still persecuted, even executed, for being women, for being open about their faith, their sexuality, their resistance to being suppressed. Those enslaved, being targeted, trafficked, abandoned and abused. The perspective is daunting, isn’t it? It’s a spoonful of reality that can be most difficult to swallow. Rise up, people! We have been called as a nation to exemplify character — defending the weak, providing for the helpless and giving freely the opportunity of abundance. The freedom was never intended to be about us. It is an embarrassing platitude, but we can quickly rise again. We are a nation of fighters, overcomers and hard workers. Gratitude is powerful, for it inspires action. One can have and say thanks, but one cannot experience true gratitude without being moved to share and invest in others. Count your blessings and make plans to share them.

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