By Refuge Intern Shonda Vaughn.
Being that it is November; I can’t help but think often on all for which I am thankful. Leading up to Thanksgiving Day, my oldest niece decided to create a video for our family. This video involved interviews with each family member where we divulged what makes us grateful. The common theme was being grateful for our family; my 92-year-old grandmother made sure to name each person, what they are doing with their life, how proud she is, and how much she loves each person named. My dad was just thankful to be living. As I watched the video, my kid made a statement that tugged at me; she said she was grateful for all the opportunities we are given. That got me thinking about where we are as a society and country right now.
With the outcome of this recent presidential election, I am witnessing what I believe to be the most divided this country has been in history. Extreme thinking? Maybe… I mean it’s not like we have states seceding from the Union and declaring war on one another or anything like that; although we have heard some citizens state they would relocate to Canada or other countries if their candidate was not elected. While we have thankfully not broken out into an all-out civil war, we have been subjected to a war of harsh and hurtful words for many months now. The election results seem to have caused a spread in those word wars and in some cases, have escalated to more violent acts.
From where is this all coming? Some might say it’s from a sense of injustice, fear of impending oppression, or maybe entitlement. I don’t know that I have enough wisdom to come close to sufficiently answering this question, but I believe as simple and ridiculous as this may sound, it comes from a loss of gratefulness. How in world would being grateful have anything to do with unifying, respecting, and loving one another you say? Here are my thoughts…
While I was thinking about my daughter’s comment of being grateful for opportunities, I was reminded of Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, who has spent a good portion of his 90 years studying and teaching about gratitude. Brother Steindl-Rast tells us one commonality amongst humans is we all want to be happy. Happiness looks different for each of us, but we all can attain our happy through gratitude. When a person is freely given something of value, gratitude automatically arises along with a feeling of joy.
Each moment we are given is a gift; each moment is valuable and freely given. Within each moment is an opportunity. Simply being thankful for each moment and each opportunity within the moment can bring about joy or happiness. But because we have created a world where it seems we never stop and life is constantly on go, we miss the moments. Brother Steindl-Rast tells us to become aware of gifts, we need to set up stop signs. We need take time to “Stop-Look-Go”. Take time to stop and get quiet, to look and enjoy the opportunities given to us, as well as open our hearts to the opportunities. The opportunities we are given allow us to do something, which could be just as simple as enjoying the opportunity.
According to Brother Steindl-Rast, if we are grateful, we are not fearful and thus, not violent. If we are grateful, we act out of a sense of having enough, and thus, a willingness to share. If we are grateful, we enjoy differences in people, which promotes equal respect and love. Grateful people are joyful people; a grateful world is a joyful world. That said, I challenge myself and you to test the concept… each day for 30 days, acknowledge 3 things for which you are grateful. Let’s see if we find a more joyful life, and ultimately make America grateful again.
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