Moving into the New Year—With Gratitude

by Al Cole

Gratitude for the Big and Small

For a few years running, I made a New Year’s resolution to write something I was thankful for every day on a sticky note and add it to a jar. On the following New Year’s Eve, I read through a year’s worth of accumulated notes with my partner. We laughed and cried as we remembered our year together. The content of the notes ranged from the mundane (a favorite food!) to the extraordinary (a promotion at work!). Whether big or small, I was grateful for it all. 

Gratitude for the Challenges

One of my favorite poems as a kid was “I’m Thankful” by Jack Prelutsky. It contains a list of items that any kid might be thankful for—pet hamsters, baseball bats, and roller skates, just to name a few. We come to learn in the course of the poem, though, that the things that brought the child gratitude also brought them challenges: the hamsters escaped, the bat broke, and the roller skates led to a scraped knee.

I think the child is thankful for the opportunity to learn something from each challenge. Maybe next time the child will secure the pet hamster’s cage or take the less bumpy road on their roller skates. What if we were to approach our challenges like the child: thankful we learned something and thankful for the opportunity to try again?

That said, the poem culminates in the ONE THING that the child is not thankful for, liver. And with that, I agree.                                                                  

Moving Through Lament and Anger to Gratitude

Psalm 71 moves from lament and anger to gratitude. First, the psalmist laments and then bemoans to God, “You who have made me see many troubles…” The psalmist next turns to cursing. The psalmist calls for God’s retribution upon their enemies.   Though sometimes difficult to read, the cursing parts are just as valuable as the praise and adoration, because it shows me the humanity of the psalmist. They had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days back then, too.

And yet, the psalmist doesn’t end there. They end with, “My lips will shout for joy […] my soul also, which You have rescued.” For this psalmist, they were able to move through their lament and anger, and end on a note of praise and gratitude. Can we trust the process, and do the same as we bring all our feelings to God?

Looking for Gratitude

I am working hard to look at life more optimistically by asking myself every day, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” Even if all I can report is that I managed to see one of the two adorable corgis that live downtown then it can be a good day.                                                                                             

Praying for Gratitude

Almighty God, Creator and caretaker of all things bright and beautiful, all things dull and ugly, all things big and small, and all our days: Help us to remember to practice gratitude in spite of our darkest days so that, rejoicing in the Love You have for us, we may have the strength and patience to reach out to others with that same Love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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