Thirty Days of Thankfulness
By Heather L. Melton, staff officer for the United Thank Offering
Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard so many people say, “I think people are tired and they don’t want to add another thing to their lives.” Each time I hear this it resonates with me. I’m tired; my guess is that the person who says it is also tired. If we are honest with ourselves, it’s safe to say that we are all pretty emotionally exhausted. Many of us have found that boundaries or systems that used to protect our downtime disappeared with the pandemic, while others are experiencing the exhaustion that comes from being disconnected from community, or the kind of tired that comes from wondering what going to the store will look like this time. I know the struggles that I’ve had since March 2020, and that those I care about have had, and I can only imagine the innumerable ways people are experiencing the collective grief, trauma, and pain that the pandemic has caused.
So where does this take us? For me, I started thinking about the passage from Matthew chapter 11. Jesus has praised John the Baptist and told everyone they messed up by not listening to what John had to say. Jesus then stops and gives thanks to God. Then we get the passage that most of us know: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Notice, give thanks, and rest—that’s what I hear in this passage, and it might be what we all need to hear right now.
To that end, I am committing to 30 days of gratitude. One of the traditions at our house on Thanksgiving is to ask everyone to share one thing they are thankful for from the past year. Some years, the gratitude flows easily; sometimes, people need time to think or need help coming up with something. This year, I am taking the time to think about this question long before we sit down to eat.
As you know, we offer a gratitude challenge each November—this year it focuses on care of creation and you can get yours at unitedthankoffering.org/november. I am going to join my kids in the “giant gratitude turkey” project and note each day something I am grateful for. I want to take time to give thanks for the ways God showed up through members of our community whom I don’t know but who showed up in ways that helped us stay home and safe; for my coworkers and Board who helped imagine new ways of doing things; for our family and friends who, even though I’m sure they were tired, willingly exchanged Valentines with my kids or did the Flat Stanley project with them over the summer. I have much to give thanks for, and as I reflect on these things ever so briefly, I find that I am less tired.
It also helps me to see those things which it might be time to let go of, or to have better boundaries around to make more time for the life-giving moments. For me, the rest that Jesus offers for our souls is the connection to others, the fact that we were made for each other, hardwired for connection, and not meant to struggle through the brokenness of this world alone. This means that I need to give thanks for those connections, make better boundaries, or let go of things that are not serving me well so that I have more time to connect, be present, and see where God is showing up.
This November, I hope you will find a way to deepen your own spiritual practice of gratitude. Take time each day to give thanks in your own way; see if this helps you to feel less anxious or tired. Or maybe all it will do is mean that when we get to Thanksgiving Day, we are simply overwhelmed by the things we might offer when asked what we are grateful for from the last year.