by Lauren Thomas, MA
It’s Thanksgiving Week of 2020! The words “thanksgiving” and “2020” may seem oddly juxtaposed this year. Between a worldwide pandemic, natural disasters, a contentious election season, and stressful changes to our everyday lives (hello, working-from-home and virtual school!), we are feeling exhausted, burnt out, and less-than grateful. The holidays will most likely look different than every other year, as we celebrate closer to our homes and in fewer numbers.
I have been thinking about what helps me cultivate gratitude when life looks differently than I expected, when I am feeling disappointed and grieving the changes. Probably the number one thing that helps me shift my attitude and perspective is knowing I am not alone. I am not experiencing these changes in a vacuum; others are sharing these challenges and emotions as well.
When we are angry or hurting, it is easy to isolate. In isolation, we can feel that we are the only ones going through trials. It is easier to become bitter and believe the lies that we are useless and hopeless. One of my favorite artists, Sara Groves, has a song that has been echoing in my head lately called “Joy is in our Hearts.” Here are the first few lines:
We were pressed on every side
Full of fear and troubled thoughts
For good reason we carried heavy hearts
It is good to come together
In our friendship to remember
All the reasons hope is in our hearts
Indeed, there are many reasons why we are troubled and carry heavy hearts in 2020. There is certainly a time for lamenting and grieving the collective losses of the year. However, it is also good to come together and remind one another of what we are grateful for in this season, to stir hope in each others’ hearts.
Whether in person or via FaceTime or Zoom, we can encourage one another. Life was not meant to be lived alone; relationships with family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers help us remember our blessings when we are prone to forget during hard times.
Think about a time you were discouraged and a loved one reached out to you. They may have: brought groceries or a cup of coffee, listened as you shared your feelings, provided child care, given you a ride, reminded you of truth by sending an encouraging text or note, sat with you silently, prayed for you.
In the big and small ways we show up for one another, we are reminded that we are not alone. When someone acknowledges what we are going through and says “me too,” we suddenly have new strength to press on – together. C.S. Lewis said: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any friends like that.” Perhaps you have isolated yourself for so long you do not have a solid support system. It is not too late to change! I would challenge you to be the kind of friend that you want to have. Reach out to a neighbor or co-worker and find out how you can meet a need. Be a good listener. Write a card or send a text “just because.” You may give someone a reason to be grateful on a hard day or season.
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