The Importance of Gratitude & Thanksgiving

Not every nation has a custom of setting aside a day of thanksgiving as our country has. And no matter how “politically incorrect” the loud minority may huff and puff against celebrating Thanksgiving, I choose especially on this day to remember and celebrate my blessings.

As strange as it may sound, one of the most important choices we can make to keep our mental and spiritual sanity in the midst of any adversity is choosing to be grateful and thankful for the good we do have, and yes, even be grateful and thankful for the opportunity that adversity gives us to grow stronger.

I remember reading a while back about people who took in bird eggs to incubate and how important it is not to “help” the little chick out of its egg at hatching time. Why? Because the chick has to build the strength on its own to break free out of its shell in order to survive in this world. Without building up that strength by slowly chipping away and emerging on its own from its shell, the chick can be too weak to thrive and survive.

There are difficulties in this life we all go through that no one on this earth can make go away. Our friends can stand by our side, they can lend us a supportive ear, and they can cheer us on, but they can’t take away the adversity. It is our own destined journey. God may give us a Simon of Cyrene to help us carry our cross, but ultimately it is our cross and ours alone that we must bear. We can only pray and act in such a way that our sufferings become redemptive and purposeful for ourselves and others.

Thanksgiving Day has at times been a tough day for me and many other people, for various reasons. On Thanksgiving Day in 1980 my brother Ken Parks suddenly and without provocation attacked me by grabbing at my crotch and my breasts. (Ken currently calls himself a “pastor” of his unregistered, financially unaccountable ETC Ministries and SOC Ministries.) I was alone reading the newspaper in his living room in the house he shared with his first wife and their four-month old first-born son when he came at me. The assault took less than a minute since I immediately swung my fists at him and kicked him away from me as I yelled at him to knock it off and get away from me. It took me decades to face what he did to me, and speaking out about this incident came only after another family member told me of her own episodes of assault.

I had, and still have, a choice to make about my attitude toward Thanksgiving Day. Am I going to give my brother Ken the power he lusts to have over me so many years later and let his one act of evil ruin every subsequent Thanksgiving holiday, or am I going to remember all the truly amazing good things I have now and have experienced in life and on other really good Thanksgiving holidays I’ve shared with my loved ones? I choose gratitude and thanksgiving for all the good I’ve been given.

Anyone traumatized by violence, abuse, stalking, death threats, harassment, etc. will go through some degree of dark depressive states, especially in the midst of ongoing evil when there appears no ray of hope anywhere. Just like the chick trying to emerge from its small, confining, tenebrous shell, we have to chip away at those surrounding walls until we see flickers of light coming through. What can be some of those flickers of light? The beautiful happy sound of a bird chirping as we emerge from our sleep in the morning that drowns out the dreadful thoughts that quickly pummel our conscious minds upon wakening. A glorious sunrise or sunset. A shooting star. A walk through nature, enjoying its sights and sounds. The smile and words of thanks from someone we open a door for in our day to day goings-on in the world. A silly joke or encouraging word from a friend. The remembrance of good times with loved ones.

A long-time friend told me in the midst of painful grieving over the passing of her parents and the ensuing estate decisions that had to be tackled that she needed to make her mind think of every good thing she had to be grateful for as she journeyed through her adversity. Doing that was the best medicine for her hurting heart and mind. Practicing gratitude and thankfulness strengthened her mental and spiritual “muscles” to help her get through her trial.

So then, as part of necessary and beneficial self care and expressing our care toward other people, whatever our circumstances, whatever difficulties have overshadowed us, let’s be determined — and even defiant of those difficulties! — to spend our Thanksgiving Day celebrating every little (and big!) blessing we have. And let’s continue that determination by making every day a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude!

Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

 Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings — *money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Johnson Oatman, Jr., pub. 1897, public domain.


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© Copyright 2021 Paulette J. Buchanan