November 27, 2014

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Gratitude Is Not a Privilege

Gratitude, like love, is bound only by our choices. The more we give, the more we keep.

I tried to ignore Ferguson today, but I glanced at Twitter hashtag #Ferguson a moment ago. The first tweet I read inspired this post. Someone wrote that “being able to be thankful after #Fergson is a privilege itself.”

I understand how someone could feel that their “gratitude privilege” had been revoked. We lost our daughter just before Christmas in 1994, about four weeks after I got out of the Navy. I cursed God, of course, and life and everything.

Within minutes of that tragedy, though, I was already thanking people. A high school classmate was the EMT supervisor who responded to the call. Bob Geigel drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until my dad arrived. I have never thanked him publicly. Until now.

My Aunt Jane was beyond wonderful that day. Aunt Mame, too. The priests of St. Gabriel. The people of St. Gabriel. Strangers. The Kutis family. Anonymous donors who paid for her funeral.

In my greatest hour of despair came the greatest surge of gratitude I ever felt, before or since.

Gratitude is a choice. It’s sometimes an obligation. But gratitude is never a privilege. Anyone can feel grateful anytime they wish.

Even Michael Brown’s mother and father have an infinite number of reasons to be grateful. They have received love from strangers. They have been flown to Europe and given a stage to present their grief and their hope. They have memories of their son.

Gratitude and grief are not opposite ends of single line. They coexist as perfectly as turkey and stuffing. For those who believe in redemptive suffering, such as Christ went through on the cross, grief can be the reason for gratitude, even when we suffer for the sake of others.

Yes, Michael Brown’s family has reason to grieve. And the privilege to grieve. They also have the capacity to thank, and I have no doubt they have thanked many people and felt remarkable gratitude in the last 90 days.

On this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful that, by God’s grace, I overcame the thought I had in December of 1994—that there is nothing left to be grateful for. I pray for the author of that sad tweet that he, too, overcomes the silly idea that gratitude is a privilege reserved for a few.

Happy Thanksgiving.