In the USA, this is Thanksgiving season. It is one day in the year, that is used to give thanks and be grateful for what we have. I would however like to challenge you, to think on a higher level about Thanksgiving and gratitude. At first glance, this question seems to have an obvious answer. What should I be grateful for? Duh…uh… Everything I have of course. The truth is, sometimes we do not even know what we have, and at other times we do not even think that some of the things we have are things to be grateful for.
I once had a conversation with someone, in a very enviable position in life, who said that nothing was working for her. I was shocked! All I could see, was all the great things that she had going, the opportunities, and the progress that she was making. Is it possible, that even with all these things, she did not see them as part of “what was working in her life”? I will just briefly address, five things that we can look at in our lives and be grateful for.
1. You material possessions: This is probably the most obvious. However, remember this-there are things that you have that a lot of people are only dreaming of having. When you are grateful for what you have ownership of, you can be content without being complacent. Even though you may not have every single thing you want, you still have some than things you want and need. Be grateful for what you have even as you strive to acquire more.
2. Your abilities: There are things you can do, that other people cannot. There are talents that you have, that other people do not. I think what happens is a lot of times, because we can do something so well, we downplay it, and think that everyone can as well. If you have certain abilities, do not take them for granted. Be grateful for them. Even Paul in the Bible said, “I magnify my office…”. This is not to say that one becomes arrogant, boastful or a show-off. We do however, should learn to acknowledge, be happy about, be grateful for, and enjoy our God-given abilities and talents. If you have a great singing voice, be grateful for it and use it to bless others. If you are creative, if you have a talent for organizing, if you have a way with words, if you are a focused and resolute person who never gives up; these are all things that you can and should be grateful for. Be grateful for your abilities.
3. Your opportunities: Be grateful for the opportunities that God has given you to better yourself, make more money, bless others, live in a free country, etc. What you take for granted, remember, some people can only dream of having. If you are an adult, you will realize that a lot of opportunities show up as more work! Be grateful for this. Work is not a dirty word, and sometimes opportunities need to even greater opportunities.
4. Your unearned privileges: These days in the USA, when you hear the word privilege, it is associated with the phrase “white privilege”. This point is not about white privilege at all, although white privilege is an example of an unearned privilege. Privilege in this context, does not mean riches, fortune, or fame. It simply means certain things that you did not work for that give you an advantage in life. I will give an example from my own life. I happen to be born a citizen of the united kingdom. As such, I am a citizen of the European Union. What this means, is that I literally have my pick of European countries in which to live. If I get tired of one country, I can simply pack up and move to another. I could live in England, Scotland, France, or Germany. I did not work to earn this, it was simply an accident of birth. This does not automatically give me fame and money, but should I decide to use it, it would give me an advantage. Another privilege I have, is having parents who are both heavily into education as well as entrepreneurship. As such, they inculcated into their children a love and desire for both. I did not choose my parents, but because of them, I love to learn, I love to read, and I love to be independent and “make my own money”. I did not choose my parents, it was simply an accident of birth. The truth is, when you acknowledge and are grateful for your unearned privileges, it makes you more humble, and compassionate towards those who do not have the same. The problem is we all like to pretend as though we do not have any advantages in life. We like to act as though we worked for every single thing we have. The grace of God sometimes shows up as unearned privileges.
5. The people in your life: The people in your life can make or break you. If you have good people in your life, do not take them for granted. Acknowledge them, be grateful for them, and do not wait until they die before you send them flowers. I have been in situations where I have watched people devalue and dishonor the relationships that God has given them. These same people then wonder why they get abandoned. The truth is that when you are not honoring of your relationships, people feel it. They may not even know what it is that they feel, but people are a lot more intuitive and smart than we sometimes give them credit for. If you are grateful for the people in your life, you will not have to force yourself to honor them. It will flow naturally out of a grateful heart.
These are five things that we should be grateful for, every day of our lives, not just on Thanksgiving day. In fact, if you only grateful on Thanksgiving day but you complain the rest of the time, it means you are not really a grateful person.
What other things in life, are you grateful for?