Holidays don’t usually hold much weight for me. My birthday? I often feel insecure about it. Christmas? I celebrate Jesus everyday. Valentine’s day? Gross. For one reason or another, none of the holidays ever grab me. Usually.
It’s now the weekend of Canadian thanksgiving and I’m left with some uncomfortable convictions. The past year has been difficult for me. I’ve been unemployed, confused, discouraged, lonely, and feeling rather useless. Meanwhile, various friends from my graduating class have had jobs, mentorships, apprenticeships, travels, relationships, weddings, and successful projects of various kinds.
At least, that’s the way I’ve been thinking of it. My apparent failure contrasted with the progress of my peers.
About a year ago, I decided to conduct a little thought experiment. The Dwarves in the Warhammer universe maintain a Book of Grudges, a record of all the offences committed against their race to be avenged. I was also thinking of the part of Esther where the sleepless king has the records of his reign read to him, and the passage in 1 Corinthians that says “Love keeps no record of wrongs,” and all these thoughts turned into the following.
The Book of Gratitude – A record of the people in my life and the kindnesses they pay me, from favours to good conversations. And the occasional note of gratitude for health or something like that when I feel like it.
So after a year it should be about full right? I have filled… two pages. Two. There are about 25 entries. If in 365 days I can think of only 25 things to be thankful for, something has gone wrong. I am not in absolute control of my circumstances but I am in control of my attitudes and clearly I have dropped the ball.
A successful thought experiment! For the reason that it has exposed the destructive tendencies of my thinking. Gratitude can be difficult sometimes, but it may be in those times that gratitude becomes the most important. Even if you can only remember 25 things over the course of a year, that’s far better than being completely alone and hopeless.
And if gratitude is a skill then, like any skill, it must be cultivated through exercise and effort. Through strain. It’s easy to have a superficial gratitude when things are going your way. When things aren’t going your way, you find deeper and more important reasons to be thankful. For life, for relationships, etc. Then when fortune turns in your favour again, you won’t take life and relationships for granted.
Furthermore, we should never forget that the good things we enjoy from conversations to cars are all gifts from God and so long as we have him with us (we never don’t) we always have a reason to be grateful.
So this Thanksgiving weekend, I will remember to be grateful for friends, family, food, health, hope, heaven, and all the other things we are normally grateful for. But I’ll also be grateful for the lesson I take from my own ingratitude. I may not have traveled or gotten married this past year but I will be grateful for how this year has informed my character. By October 2018, I think the the Book of Gratitude will be full.