Amidst all the things going on in the world, specifically the misguided attention that the media and businesses try to emphasize regarding Thanksgiving and the holiday season in general, I’m asking that we consider this time right now as an opportunity to refocus and intentionally think about what it means to be thankful…before it’s too late. Too late for what?
Loss. Separation. Regret.
In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, in light of the terrible situation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, and reflecting on 20 months of being a volunteer, I’ve realized that if our world is ever going to change for the better, it will have to start with our values. We can start by being more appreciative of what we have at this moment because life can change in an instant. I will be the first to confess that I struggle with intentional thanksgiving, meaning, on a daily basis I let life happen without realizing how grateful I should be…for everything. Every day I focus on work, what am I eating for lunch, what is going on in everyone’s FB lives, how am I getting home, what am I making for dinner, and what should I do before I sleep. I get caught up in routine. I become unintentionally forgetful about people in my life. I under-appreciate modern conveniences like clean running water, electricity, and internet, even being a Peace Corps volunteer living in a developing country. This got me thinking about my life before I became a volunteer.
I have intentionally separated myself from my former life, relationships, and comforts. It was only being away from all that I knew which helped me to realize how much I had. Though it’s been extremely challenging at times living in a developing country and being away from family and friends, I have truly become a more thankful human being. When people ask me what is my biggest challenge, I always tell them, “doing what I am passionate about while at the same time being away from the people I love the most.” Which is another reason why I’m thankful to be here with Michelle and give props to all the single volunteers around the world. It’s also the reason why true love is really scary – because one day, Michelle and I will not be together. So you make the best of what you have now.
Having internet, I see the hype around Thanksgiving and much of it is not about relationships but about consumerism. I see that the coverage of the terrible destruction in the Philippines by typhoon Haiyan has already been replaced by the amazing Black Friday deals and which store will be open the earliest on Thanksgiving. It saddens me a lot but I’m also very aware that not everyone buys into this ridiculousness. I’m also very aware that it’s not bad in itself to want things or to shop. What is bad is when we value material things more than the people in our lives.
So my prayer and hope for you today is that you find and/or have something or someone to be thankful for. This might be challenging, and if it is, I hope you can work towards a state of thanksgiving. Remember that you can’t buy time and you can’t replace the one’s you love. Nothing ever stays the same. And knowing this helps us to be more thankful…every day.