I had a moment of weakness yesterday. Despair. We’re in a pandemic. Jayne, my daughter, was emotional because her mom was in the hospital (but not with the virus). We started home-school . . . something I never, ever wanted to do. It was the 6th day of choking smoke from the nearby fires. I’m asthmatic. My sister evacuated her home. We had one of Lukas’ friends over for dinner (two days earlier). He tested positive for COVID, so we started a brand-new quarantine. And, oh yeah, he’s an at-risk kid and can’t come over for shelter now.
I reached out the way any insane person looking for help might. I posted on Facebook. “Well that didn’t help much,” I thought as I read some of the early responses from people who thought I was joking. But that’s my own fault; I joke more on social media than anything else because everything else starts a fight. Then I caught myself getting bitter when I saw that some people were responding in what I thought were platitudes. I went to bed dark and brooding with little hope for the world.
I woke the next morning realizing my sense of existential doom was a bit dramatic. It might be true, but I really need to focus on what I can control instead of stewing about what I cannot. Be a force for good, Donald! So I took a look at my friends’ responses from my post the day before, and one stood out above the others: “Hope always arises with the practice of gratitude.” The day before I understood this comment as a platitude, but the a good night of sleep behind me and realizing that this comment came from a person I respect a lot I decided to look a little deeper at it.
Gratitude asks of us to look at the world through the lens of status. It asks us, “what do you have,” not “what have you lost”. It asks us, “how can I use what I have to make things better,” not “how can I get what I’ve lost back to make things like they were when they were better”. The former of those two sets of questions is actually useful and the latter of those two sets of questions is not. Why? Because time doesn’t move backward. So if you are like me and you have periods where you lose hope, look backward, and try to reclaim what you have lost, I think my friend on Facebook actually has it right. Let’s try to be more grateful.
No . . . it’s not a platitude. Lets see how it could work. What do I have to be grateful for and how can I use it for good?
- I have a job and an income. I can use that to help a buddy of mine buy a truck to start his own business in the midst of his own employment struggles.
- I have a smart phone. I can use it to call (but mostly text because I’m not a great telephone guy) and check on my friends who are divorcing. And their kids.
- I can write. I can write this article yes. But I can also write cards to those to whom I am grateful. Some people I’m just glad have run in and out of my life.
- I have a voice. I can use it to tell others how we must change as a species so we do not destroy our own ecology.
- I have a vote. I can use it to affect change.
- I have a God. We can talk.
Shift your thinking friends. Let’s not try to capture the past anymore. Let’s move on and do the very best we can with what we have.