This weekend in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving. I love thanksgiving. Every year, my heart feels full of thankfulness.
I feel thankful as we dig into turkey and some delicious dessert my friend has baked from scratch.
I feel thankful on top of the ferris wheel at the Rockton Fair as I think “What joy there is in this life!”
I feel thankful as I serve communion to my congregation, saying over and over: “The body of Christ broken for you,” touching their hands, looking in their eyes as we remember together.
This Thanksgiving, I am finding it harder to feel thankful.
Truth be told, my feelings waffle more between bitterness and existential dread. I feel bitter that our “bubble” has burst and that we won’t eat a meal with people dear to our hearts. I feel sad that many of our traditions are on hold this year. I feel angry with random strangers who I perceive have messed up this holiday for me – those nameless, faceless people who are to blame because THEY didn’t take the restrictions seriously enough.
And I feel the dread a lot of us feel – that the days are getting shorter and the numbers are rising and “What if we have to do Christmas like this too?”
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, but I admit that thankfulness is not coming easy this year. Bitter is easier. Anger is easier. Outrage is easier. Disappointment is easier.
Which is why I remind myself: being thankful this year is even more important usual.
Because true gratitude is more than thankfulness that comes because life is the way we want it. True gratitude is not contingent on life going our way. True gratitude is when we can look around and outside and beyond the #blessings we find easy to appreciate and recognize the gifts that we could easily overlook.
This year, I believe we have a chance to really celebrate thanksgiving because we have the chance to practice true gratitude. We have the chance to be thankful in spite of our circumstances. This can be its own kind of gift, if we let it.
My thankful list looks different this year. This year, like no other, I am thankful for things I usually take for granted.
I am thankful that my children can attend school.
I am thankful for our healthcare system.
I am thankful for grocery stores and those who work there.
I am thankful for our government.
I am thankful for hand sanitizer and face masks.
I am thankful for technology.
I am thankful for scientists.
I am thankful for people who love me, even if we can’t eat together.
I am thankful for the future.
I admit that it feels really, really hard, but I am reminding myself that I can choose to be angry or I can choose to be thankful. And I can choose thankfulness not because things feel “good” – but because there IS good. Because God is good. Because even hard seasons in life are full of goodness.
And, so, as I look to this very-unusual thanksgiving, I pray: “Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”