I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Not just because I love long weekends, football, time with family and lots of delicious food, but because Thanksgiving is such an “in your face” reminder to pause and reflect on the things we are thankful for.
Ever since I was a kid, I would make a list of the things that I was thankful for on Thanksgiving. When I was age 10 my list consisted of things like “baseball cards”, “The Dukes of Hazard” (I had such a crush on Daisy), and “my new bike”.
As a teenager, I was completely preoccupied with heavy metal music so my Thanksgiving Day list simply read, “Led Zeppelin”, “Triumph”, “Ozzy”, “Iron Maiden”, “AC/DC”, “Motley Crue”, “Metallica” and a dozen other rockin’ bands I was thankful for.
When I became a young man I began to include much more valuable things on my Thanksgiving Day list, such as craft beer … haha, and oh yeah … family, great friends, a cool job and a comfortable crib. Of course, after being blessed with an amazing spouse and healthy kids, all of our attitudes shift, so my lists were much more focused on the truly valuable things in life, such as love and health.
Then, in 2010, I went on my first of five trips to Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. At that time it had just been annihilated by a devastating earthquake. I was able to see so many things that, I guess, I had always appreciated deep down, but clearly took for granted; food, clean water, even medicine (something as simple as Tylenol!). As well as a bathroom, electricity and paved roads.
In November of 2014 I decided to help raise money and awareness for homeless kids in Detroit, so I slept out on the streets of Detroit on a frigid 7 degree night for Covenant House Michigan. It was the most miserable night of my life. Once again, the blinders came off my eyes and I became keenly aware of so many things I take for granted, that our homeless neighbors just 10 miles down the road can’t. So, I included heat and a safe place to sleep on my Thanksgiving list.
And now, in 2017, the tone of my Thanksgiving list is changing again. It may sound strange, but today … topping my list of things I’m thankful for is this: life’s difficulties. Huh? Why, you ask?
I’ve learned that it’s easy to be thankful when you’ve got just about everything you want or need. However, to be thankful when things kind of suck — is a gift. The truth is life is difficult and we all struggle at times. A wise friend of mine says that if we’re currently not in a difficult situation then we’re either coming out of one or on our way into one. That’s life. The best thing we can do is embrace the difficulties, learn from them, grow from them and become more compassionate as a result of them.
In some Buddhist temples there’s actually a prayer that asks for difficulties, “May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion”. Imagine asking for that.
The Bible says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Including the difficult ones.
So, this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for life’s difficulties because …
- Difficulties builds patience
- Difficulties builds character
- Difficulties inspires compassion
- Difficulties lead to greater confidence
- Difficulties make us rise to the occasion
- Difficulties humble us and helps us turn to God for strength
It know it seems strange, but I think our difficulties actually make us happier, more appreciative and more faithful and for that, I’m thankful.