I choose thanks

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, this year seems different. 2020 will be remembered as the year everything seemed different. As we reflect on this year of tragedy, loss, fear, uncertainty, unrest, division, anger and hopelessness – some may find the giving of thanks difficult in the midst of sorrow.

Rebecca Capuano, the host of www.thehomeschoolmom.com, expressed it this way. Maybe you can relate in this COVID, racial unrest, election, chaotic year.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanksgiving. We’re supposed to give thanks. And of course, I am thankful. So, yeah, we’ll give thanks. Let’s see… I’m thankful for…”

That was the approach I’ve had many a year. Sort of a laissez-faire approach to gratitude, if you will. But after losing my child three months ago, just 4 days after his birth, this year thanksgiving is not a mundane kind of thing. No, this year I have to choose to give thanks. It takes effort, it takes energy, it takes focus. Whereas in previous years I gave thanks out of a sense of sufficiency, out of a feeling that those things for which I was grateful were sort of a “given”, this year I give thanks with the new awareness that what I have can be taken away.

Thanksgiving doesn’t come this year as a natural flow out of living in a season of abundance. Instead, it must be squeezed, drop by drop, out of a desert of loss. But the desert makes each drop so much more precious and worthwhile. And this year, I am so much more keenly focused on the source of that gratitude – my God, the giver of all blessings – rather than on the objects of my thanks. And while I certainly do not give thanks for everything, I am learning how to give thanks in everything.

So this year I choose to give thanks. I do it consciously, intentionally, even painfully. But by doing so, I learn to see the good even in the midst of pain, the blessings that can come from difficulty. 

God is the giver of choices – he chose us (John 15:16) and he gives us the ability to choose (Romans 6:16). Both Moses and Joshua conclude their lives declaring that we have a choice (Deuteronomy 30:19 & Joshua 24:15.) How we respond to this difficult year is also a choice. Even not making a choice is a choice, which many of us learned in our recent election. As we sit around our Thanksgiving tables and produce our list of what we are grateful for, don’t just give thanks but choose thanks!

In her book “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving,” Diana Butler Bass, offers this prayer, “God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world. Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth. We choose thanks.”