To be fully engaged in life means coming to terms with one paradox after another. A child is born, a friend goes through chemo. A daughter gets a dream job; a brother gets a divorce. A new home is finally built and moved into; an entire downtown is stopped in its tracks by flooding. One kid comes home from college; another never comes home after what was to be a night at the Club.
This week the question of how thanksgiving coexists with tragedy is especially poignant.
This is not a new question. The Thanksgiving holiday many of us will celebrate this week is itself a convoluted and conflicted event. One person’s celebration is another’s displacement, oppression and loss.
I don’t have answers, but I offer these thoughts.
First and perhaps most important gratitude is not an elixir, an eraser, or a rug under which we sweep the hurts we have either inflicted or experienced. It is one aspect of being human. We are uniquely capable of experiencing a mix of thoughts and feelings at any given time; we can even hold multiple differing perspectives at once. And we need to do exactly that. Though any given event may overcome us, life is not all one thing, good or bad. Giving thanks doesn’t negate the seriousness of the issues we are dealing with in our lives, in our communities. Rather it is a practice that acknowledges and grounds us in reality.
Second, the practice of gratitude is a risk, and it requires courage. To experience the deepest kind of hurt or loss is a trauma. To allow joy or thanksgiving to take root within after a trauma means allowing for the possibility of more pain or loss. Bravo for taking the risk.
Third, giving thanks is an extraordinarily individual practice. The “attitude of gratitude” isn’t for everyone. For some of us, gratitude comes as an exhale in a quiet, end of day moment. For some it is a prayer, for others it involves giving back. Thanksgiving comes with tears, laughter, humility, fierceness, regrets, no regrets, and everything in between.
Whatever it is for you and yours, we at MNA wish you well this time of year. Have a wonderful Giving Tuesday and thank you for all the ways you make Montana stronger through your mission. We are so grateful for you.