This last week, most of us took time to be intentionally thankful. In my typical fashion, I both love and hate this – which is easier than it sounds.
I love being thankful.
I hate relegating thankfulness to one special day – a sort of “free pass” for ingratitude the rest of the year. It’s like my kids deciding to celebrate National “Obey Your Parents” Day: I would have to rebel.
Regardless, this year, I have much to be thankful for.
- Healthy kids. I have friends whose son suffered a life-altering brain injury skateboarding a few years ago – just in time for his senior year of high school. I have another friend whose ten-year-old has brain cancer, and another whose daughter died of cancer – after an amputation. I am intensely grateful for my kids’ scrapes, knocks, and colds.
- Money to pay our bills. Another friend of mine does not have a phone. Or heat. Or income of any kind. Or, sometimes, food. At our house, we’re not going to Disneyland, or even out to dinner most months, but my family never has to be cold, hungry, or worried about making a house payment.
- A Western standard of living. Here, I don’t mean Western culture – I mean, gas or electric stoves. Running water. Indoor toilets. In the Kibera slum of Nairobi – just one of many slums in that city, just one of many such cities in Kenya, just one of many such countries in the world – there is approximately one hole in the ground per 400 people. My family of four shares one bathroom – and we are so, so lucky.
- Modern medicine. Yes, I know, I have heard it all and I agree: we overmedicate. We over vaccinate. We use medicine as a way to enable ourselves to make poor lifestyle choices. And yet…globally, diarrhea remains the number one killer of kids under age 5. Not here, though. And that’s just one example. We are incredibly blessed.
- Freedom. Fine, fine – liberals slander Christians, Christians hate Planned Parenthood, right wing radicals verbally attack Muslims, police target black men, straight teens bully gay and lesbian teens…this is all painfully true and unjust. And yet, when my students move here from Iraq, or El Salvador, or Nepal, they all say: I can be who I want, here. I can say and think what I want. There are only a handful of places like this in the world, and I happen to live in one.
And, of course:
- The beauty of a world that continues to defy our attempts to control it.
- Free time, to read, to write, to paint, to stare at the sunrise at some ungodly hour of the morning – the very poor do not have the luxury to sit around: they are too busy working.
- My God and king.
So, I will continue to be glad there is no National “Love Your Spouse” Day (please, if there is – don’t tell me). And, even though I have approximately 360 days until the next Thanksgiving, I will continue to count my blessings: both the very small and the impossibly big.