This time of year, my heart is back home in Utah. My thoughts are all about Thanksgiving, a particularly American holiday. The word evokes images of parades, family reunions, turkey, pumpkin pie – and of course – the ubiquitous thirty days of thanks through the medium of Facebook. In November, newsfeeds are flooded with status updates ranging from outpourings of love for family members to gratitude for One Direction (yes, someone did actually give thanks for boy bands). Perhaps you sense a hint of cynicism? Surely I should laud this seasonal gush of thankfulness? And yes, you are right! However, so many of these posts are swiftly followed by a string of trivial complaints.
Sadly, this is not a phenomenon that is unique to Facebook, it is something we encounter daily, and, shamefully, often coming from our own mouths (I must plead guilt). In one moment we might express gratitude for our windfalls, appreciation for tenuous bounties: good health, falling in love, new jobs, or the birth of a child. In the next moment, we pay no notice to the things that are going well, or worse, take for granted those things in life that are solid and dependable: the unconditional love of a parent, supermarkets and pervasive advances in technology.
Being thankful is a choice. Next time you are standing on the precipice of a crisis, consider whether you are really having the worst day ever or whether you are simply ignoring the things for which you should be most grateful. Instead of complaining that your smart phone isn’t running on the latest operating system, remember that you hold in your hand more computing power than was available for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Instead of feeling inconvenienced by the teachers’ strike, be mindful of how fortunate you are that your children have access to free education; think of Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for standing up for girls’ rights to education. The next time you are exasperated with the plumbing, compare the luxury of clean drinking water to the deaths of over 8,000 people in Haiti since the outbreak of cholera in 2010.
Choose to be thankful this week and watch your whole perspective change.
By Anne Baynham, Education Administrator for the Diocese of Gloucester