Saturday, 7 October 2017

Giving Thanks in the Dark

How do you write a Thanksgiving blog after a week like we’ve just had, filled with news about the tragedy that is Las Vegas?

How can you be lighthearted and channel your inner child at such a time as this? It raises all the old questions you thought maybe you’d settled long ago; or at least, you’d decided that you could live with not knowing the answers – questions like, What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in all of this? Now, the horror has stirred up those questions again.

And is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and it will be soon in the USA. How do we give thanks in troubled times? Perhaps we want to curl up in a ball and hide in the dark, waiting for the world to end. Perhaps we want to hand in our ID card that says we are members of the human race. The thing is, yielding to despair will never help anyone, including ourselves.  Is there an antidote?

I spent a few days poking at that idea. Surely if I could find the right answer, if I could find the definitive antidote to despair, it would be so helpful. (Don’t you agree? And I’d be rich, too!) Turns out – surprise, surprise! –  I couldn’t ... but, hallelujah, there are glimmers of light shining in that pit of darkness, and those glimmers, I believe, can see us through.

Ann Lamott says it begins with hanging on as hard as you can to any remaining shred of Hope and believing that good will prevail in the end:  “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up ... hope appears if we truly desire to see it.” For Ann and others who share their wisdom and inspiring, uplifting  words, I am thankful.

Look up, says writer/activist Belvie Rooks, who worked with at-risk youth in California. As part of her work, she took her youth groups out to watch the stars.  Rooks observes that "awe and wonder are part of the antidote to despair." By being in nature, we become aware of the immensity of the cosmos, which changes our perspective on what’s happening around us. We are all connected and we belong to each other. For this beautiful world, and the wonders we see around us, and for the people in it, I am so very, very thankful.

BiG starry night sky | by IronRodArt - Royce Bair ("Star Shooter")
For others, action is the answer to despair. Do something! Do anything that will add to the sum of goodness in the world. Give money, or join an organization, or volunteer. If we all do our part, and if we find like-minded people to join us,  we will hold the darkness at bay, both in the world and in our own hearts. And for those many people who actively work for a better world, I am thankful.

photos from a project by an elementary school in Indiana
Robert Emmons, who has written a book about the subject, prescribes Gratitude: “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.” Aha! I am thankful for a reminder that Thanksgiving Day can help us combat despair. (And I am thankful for a friend who posts a gratitude on Facebook every day – cool idea, eh? A good antidote to the despair we see posted too often.)

And then there’s trust. I have come to the space in my own heart where I have to let go of the ego part of me that says, “It’s all up to me.” It’s not easy to let go. We all want to fix the hard parts of life, and fix them  NOW! Fortunately, that’s not up to us. What a burden that would be. Personally, I have come to trust that a higher power is holding this world in loving hands, that the creation is renewing itself even as I write this, and that I’m not sure what the outcome will look like, but it will be good. For that, I am deeply, unutterably thankful.

We need them all: hope, faith, gratitude, action, love, trust, and a relationship with the natural world around us. And we need more than that: we need each other to fight against the nay-sayers, the boo-birds, the doubting voices in our own heads that whisper negatives in the dark. We need to encourage each other and hold each other up when times are tough.

Together we are stronger than the sum total of our individual lives. We will hold hands and we’ll do it together. For that I am most thankful.

photo source:  123RF Cultural Stock photo

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