Gratitude . . . in 2020?

Gratitude is always something that comes up around Thanksgiving time. But in 2020? You’ve got to be nuts!

But here’s the thing; I’m not nuts. Even in everything this year has brought us, there is still reason to be grateful. Skeptical? Humor me and keep reading.

In “normal” times, when asking people what they’re grateful for, some might say they are grateful for food on their table, or grateful for their children, or grateful for their health. All things that are worthy of being grateful for, even in light of everything we’ve experienced in the past year. Let’s go a bit deeper, shall we? Even in 2020, and even in trying times, our gratitude can go beyond these things. In fact, we have reason to be grateful in every given moment of our lives.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we are to be grateful for everything around us. We are not meant to be grateful for things like COVID-19, or job lay-offs, or violence, or racial injustice, or the loss of a friend, or bereavement. By no means! Even within the context of these things, we do have the chance to be grateful for the opportunity that is given to us, in each moment, as a gift. Over and over again, that gift of opportunity is laid before us. Over and over again, we have the chance to do something with that opportunity. Now, if we choose to avail ourselves of these opportunities and use these gifts that have been given to us, that’s the question. We can notice these opportunities, be grateful for them, and do something with them, or, we can continue to go about our daily life’s circumstances, missing opportunity after opportunity.

So how might we train ourselves to recognize these opportunities? How might we train ourselves to recognize that which we can be grateful for in every given moment of our lives? Using the sequence promoted by Brother David Steindl-Rast, he suggests three simple steps: Stop-Look-Go. Even as in-person events are cancelled, our lives are still moving incredibly quickly. It takes intention to stop for even 10 seconds. Unless we allow ourselves to stop – even periodically – how can we look for the opportunity that has been given to us as a gift?

So Muscatine, this Thanksgiving, I invite you to stop. Then, look. Look for the opportunity that is before you, before your family, before your company, before your organization, before your community. Look at what is being presented to you in this moment, even in 2020. Stop and look. Then, go. Having seen the opportunity that is before you, take up that gift and do something with it.

To be sure, our Thanksgivings will look different this year. What we are grateful for might carry a different tone, but in each and every moment, we are given something to be grateful for: a new opportunity. So stop, look, and then, go Muscatine. Collectively, we have a whole lot of opportunities before us of which to be grateful, and we have a whole lot of opportunities in which we have the chance to do something with.