Tumultuous—that’s my one-word summary for how I experienced the end of last year and the first few months of this one. If I allowed myself more than one word, I might add afraid, discouraged, angry, and somehow I would need to work in my growing sense of unease about where our country was heading.
I know I wasn’t alone. Diana Butler Bass—a voice of reason when it comes to making sense of religion, culture, and politics—has helped me through this time. Before the election was ever part of our news cycle, Diana and I worked out that her next book would be on the topic of gratitude. But that meant, in a stroke of serendipity, that she was writing throughout the tumultuous election cycle, through election day, and during Trump’s first 100 days in office. I love what she says about this experience in the book:
“It was difficult to write about thanksgiving through spring and summer of 2016. I decided to wait for the elections to pass to tackle the hard work of writing, hoping a calmer mood might arise when ‘thank you’ could come more naturally. That moment never arrived. So while the rest of the world analyzed and dissected the first one hundred days of Trump, I practiced one hundred days of gratitude.”
In Grateful, Diana talks about how she discovered the practice of gratitude is actually a radical act. It is not made of the soft, Hallmark-card substance we assume it to be. It is made of harder stuff. Gratitude stands up to and defies the message that the world’s inequality, hate, or injustice has the last word. It resists evil. Gratitude is not a polite reactive force for occasional good things that come our way. Instead it can be a proactive force that pushes all that supports goodness and hope into the world. By practicing gratitude, we even the playing field. Gratitude gives us a seat at the table for determining the course of the world, which we might think is reserved for just the powerful, or the rich. It’s clear just how much we need this course correction right now.
From the smallest act of kindness to the largest political statement, gratitude is what is going to help us love our neighbors, right the wrongs, stand up to injustice, and bring healing to a broken world. Our world needs our radical acts of gratitude. It’s time to stand up and be thankful.