Being Thankful During Hard Times

Today was one of those days. My children were at each other all day, and it seemed like every time I turned around, there was another sibling fight. All the while, I was trying to home school them, keep a 3 year old busy and out of mischief, and fit in some time to work. After we finished our schoolwork for the day, we got outside for a bike ride and some sunshine. My kids ended up finding some really great, deep mud puddles and proceeded to ride their bikes through these mud puddles for a long while. At one point, my daughter looked at me and said, “This is the best day ever!” After we got home, the kids decided that they needed to hose off their bikes, and so, on went the water hose. The next thing I knew, the kids began chasing each other with the hose, squirting each other and squealing and laughing with delight. There was one part of me that for a split second was actually annoyed that they were doing this. I needed to start dinner, and everyone needed towels, which meant I would have yet another load of laundry to do. Instead, I made the choice to just be grateful that they were having fun together after a rough day of fighting. I made the choice to smile and laugh along with them as they played. I chose to forget about the extra laundry and the fact that we would eat dinner late and chose to focus on the good in the situation; my children were getting along, making memories, and having fun together. At that moment, I realized that gratitude is a choice.

The current situation in our country is much more serious than the above example where the biggest negative was extra laundry and a late dinner. Our current crisis involves unemployment, financial hardship, sickness, and even death. This COVID-19 pandemic is causing so much uproar and turmoil in the day to day lives of so many. As we live in these hard times, day after day, it often feels that there is very little to be thankful for. I want to suggest, however, that there are things to be grateful for, even in the midst of hard times, worldwide pandemics, and economic distress. We may have to look hard for them, but they are there if we choose to see them.

I recently listened to a Podcast that hosted a man named John Israel as the guest speaker. Mr. Israel is also known as “Mr. Thank You.” You can find out more about Mr. Thank You and his story HERE. He has made practicing gratitude an integral part of his life, and I loved listening to his insights on being thankful. One way that he defines gratitude is: thinking about your past and present circumstances and adding positivity to those circumstances. He proposed asking yourself these questions: “Where is the gift in this?” and “What is great about this experience?” He then went on to share an example about a very negative experience that he had. He described this experience as gut wrenching and heartbreaking. However, he took some time to think about the gifts in that experience and the good things that came from that experience. He wrote these things down and even personally thanked certain people who were a part of this particular experience. He described this process as “intentionally anchoring joy to a negative experience.” And now, when he thinks upon this experience, he actually sees it as a positive experience instead of a negative one, all because he took the time to look for the good and be thankful.

In light of our current crisis, I felt that these insights were extremely helpful. As we walk through these difficult moments, we can all take time to look for the gifts. Maybe you are getting to spend more time with your children. Perhaps you are getting more sleep or have befriended your next door neighbor. Maybe you are learning how to live on a budget or have seen friends and family support you in new ways. Perhaps you live in an area where the weather has been beautiful. Maybe you found both toilet paper and paper towels in the same trip to the grocery store. These are all gifts during a hard time. These gifts may seem small; however, these are still gifts and good things amidst a really hard time. Getting into the habit of looking for these gifts will help you begin the practice of being thankful.

I would like to challenge all of you to think about or write down at least five things that you are thankful for at the end of each day. You may want to journal these things or just think through them in your head. Try to make them specific to that particular day. As we begin to practice the habit of being thankful, we will begin to more easily see the gifts in the hardships and the blessings in the pain. Perhaps we will even look back on this COVID-19 crisis and somehow see it as a gift in our lives.

If you are in a place where you cannot find anything to be thankful for, or if you are concerned about your circumstances or emotional and mental state as you walk through this crisis, please call us at 912-319-5552.. We would love to help you decide if counseling may be something that could help you at this time. We are all in this together as we seek to find the gifts during this hard time.