“Thankfulness Takes Work”

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by Keith McCurdy

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be thankful?  Our natural tendency is to focus more on the negative than what is positive in our lives.  And we also know that whatever we focus on becomes a larger part of our perception.  The more we focus on the negative…the more we see the negative.  The more we focus on the positive…the more we see the positive.  The problem is, focusing on the positive or good is more difficult, especially when our environment adds to the mix.

As I was always told in Chemistry class, add a little heat and you learn more about the true nature of a substance.  Let’s just say we have all been involved in a little chemistry experiment the last two weeks or so.  What did we learn about ourselves?  There is no question that some have suffered tremendous loss including family and friends and my heart and prayers go out to them.

That thankfully has not been the case for the majority.  As a fellow I talked to recently put it who had a tree fall through his house, not on it but through it….”It is all a matter of perspective.  You either see yourself as a victim and are mad and blame everyone else for your circumstance or you are more aware of just how many things you have to be thankful for.”  “In the long run, it is just an inconvenience, a big one in the living room, but an inconvenience.”

For the majority of us who did not suffer major loss, but were inconvenienced, which category do we belong to?  I would suggest that how we responded to this circumstance may be an indication of our character that is not so clearly observed in uneventful times.  Did we write letters to the editor about how the power company didn’t care about us or did we take water out to the men from out of state that worked and are still working 16 hour days in some places to get the electricity back on?  Did we go on TV and complain about how all of our food had been spoiled in our fridge or did we thank the volunteers, many who also did not have power, who gave their time and energy to serve free meals and provide a cool place to relax?  Did we fuss about the lack of cable or phone service or did we ask our neighbors how we could be of help to them?

Luckily, there were many who took care of their neighbors, thanked volunteers, and went out of their way to thank the utility workers that were restoring power.  But in which category did you find yourself?  It is often the case that when an individual sees themselves as a victim, they have great difficulty seeing beyond self or being aware of the needs of others.  They believe that they deserve certain things and are constantly aware of any perceived injustice.   When something happens in life that is difficult, their focus is how they have been wronged.  This is in many instances a part of the “Me” culture we live in.

On the contrary, when a person is humble, they are typically more aware of the needs of others and less likely to complain about their own circumstance.  They see life as full of both good and the possibility for bad.  When something difficult does happen it is often a reminder of just how many other things they have to be thankful for.

Maybe the better question to ask is which category do we want to be in?  Other difficulties will occur, that is for sure.   It was no accident that Paul, while in prison, wrote to the Philippians that being at peace in life is less to do with our circumstance and more about being aware of just how many things we have to be thankful for.