A TED talk on happiness featured a lovely Catholic priest speaking of gratitude as key. I can remember a dear dying friend who spent the minutes before sleep each night, listing the things she was thankful for. But the most shocking for me was to hear of a man who gave thanks for his son’s death. The son was not suffering, as far as I knew. But the idea of being grateful for that was and is inconceivable to me.
And yet I do believe that in many ways I am grateful for my blindness and deafness that have transformed me and the life I have now, the generous husband, the deeply good children with their loving spouses, two delicious grandkids, and my smoochable new dog, my friends.
As I read a student’s paper today, I was reminded of this. The student is a 20-something millennial, but wise enough to know that many bad things that happen can push us to be stronger, more interesting, sensitive, enthusiastic, and loving. Simply put, they can improve us.
I reflect on 2015 and feel that it’s been stressful and busy and full of hard work. Personally, the year has been challenging with the death of a guide dog and all the intense labor of making a new guide work. The year globally has been fraught with violence and of humans killing humans, hate bursting from mouths of anxious, angry people, with the earth tantruming with storms like a two-year-old. Where can we find gratitude in such a world?
Mine comes too easily from family and friends and students and books and writers and artists of all kinds. But I give thanks for activists and all who look at the bad for solutions, not easy answers. I am uplifted by those who try to be informed and who refuse to turn into monsters, just because monsters threaten. I give thanks for people of principle that isn’t confused with ideology. I see daily acts of kindness, simple gifts to sick members of my writing groups where politics never treads. And I give thanks for the now-deceased catholic priest I met at one of my sister’s parties in Michigan who said, “Just do the good you can, Sally, in your small circle.” If we all managed that, how we could surprise and quell the rising tide of dangers and difficulties and despair.