There Are Still Many Amazing Things to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Megan Holstein

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
— Charles Dickens

Normally, I’m a holidays kind of person. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I make sure to reserve time for as many thanksgiving dinners as I can, gleefully writing entry after entry in my gratitude journal. When it’s time for Christmas, (which is not until after Thanksgiving, damnit), I download Christmas songs based on old hymns even though I’m not a Christian and sing them as loudly as people around me will bear. Then I lecture them on how materialism is ruining the holiday season. Holidays are fun, right?

But as this year’s holiday season approached, a sense of tension knotted in my chest. This year has been terrible. A terrible pandemic covered the globe. The stock market crashed. People were let go from work all over the place. People went broke. People lost their houses. People died. And instead of handling any of these problems, we… complained about the weird way Joe Biden touches the shoulders of children? No, it didn’t feel like there was much for which I could feel thankful.

But damnit Jim, I’m a self-help writer. I’m the kind of person who keeps a gratitude journal. I did not spend the last two years practicing gratitude (and reaping it’s many rewards) to be knocked down by some punk-ass pandemic.

Sure, the pandemic is bad. Many things are bad right now. But even against this backdrop of pandemic disease and unprecedented federal instability, there’s still so much we can be thankful for about America.

  1. We have a first-world medical infrastructure. If someone contracts COVID here, they are very likely going to have a hospital nearby they can visit if they become critical. Not being able to afford medical bills is better than not having access to a ventilator in the first place.
  2. We have a stable transfer-of-power process. Candidates can bicker about recounts and legal loopholes, but at the end of the day, the candidate who won is going to get sworn in. We can depend on that.
  3. Because we can depend on that, we can also feel pretty secure that no long term dissent or rebellion is going to break out.

These may seem like silly things to feel thankful for, but many people in the developing world can’t count on them, this year or any other.

“Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.”
— Estonian Proverb

Even at a more micro level, there’s plenty for which you can be thankful. Several examples of things most people reading this article can feel thankful for leap to mind:

  1. Having all four of my limbs and all of my senses intact.
  2. Having living family members with whom I have a mostly positive relationship.
  3. Having friends.
  4. Having enough money to pay rent, utilities, and buy the necessities I need to live another month.
  5. Having not yet died, especially of COVID. (That’s all of us.)
  6. The meal I ate last, and the meal before that, and the meal before that…
  7. A bed to sleep in at night.
  8. Clothes to wear tomorrow that don’t have holes.
  9. Shoes that are not falling apart.
  10. Reliable access to a shower.

It’s easy to feel everything in the world is going wrong. But if you’re worrying about whether Trump will transfer power peacefully while in your shower, don’t forget that you can still shower. Millions of people around the world live their entire lives without reliable access to a shower.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
— Epictetus

Even if your life really does suck that much, there are plenty of things to be thankful for that have nothing to do with your life.

  1. The beautiful red and orange hue of the fall leaves.
  2. The last few warm days of the season as winter sets in.
  3. The sun that shines like the light of God each morning.

The world is beautiful. It was beautiful before we were here and it will be beautiful after we are gone.

How often do you stop to appreciate that?

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.”
— Michael Josephson

Gratitude Isn’t Just for The Good Times

When people post those inspiring quotes about “Always being thankful” that you gleefully retweet, this is what the original speaker meant. They didn’t mean be thankful when you got a new laptop for Christmas. They mean be thankful now, in the middle of your poverty and hunger and fear. Stop and be thankful, in the middle of so many things going wrong, for all the things that haven’t.

Gratitude has been shown to have a slew of positive effects on your health and well-being. That slew of positive effects isn’t reserved for people who already have perfect little lives. Those positive effects are for people like you and me, people with lives full of problems and setbacks.

“If you can’t be thankful for everything you have right now, nothing will ever be enough.”
Ryan Sterling, You’re Making Other People Rich

Nothing drives this point home more than by looking at the gratitude practices of people who live in what appear to be much worse circumstances. Many people with famous quotes or sayings about gratitude had some distinctly dark periods in their lives. Charles Dickens, whose quote was the opening section of this article, had to work ten-hour days in a shoe polish factory when he was just 12 years old because his father was thrown in debtor’s prison. This was in 1824, a period of time in which people were not kind either to debt prisoners or child factory workers. Tecumseh, quoted at the end of this article, is best known for dying in the attempt to repel colonial settlers from capturing the lands of his people.

If these people can feel grateful for their lives, so can you.

I know gratefulness can be hard to summon in the face of challenges. It is very tempting to tell yourself things are bad enough right now that the only thing you can do is lay on the couch in despair. But it is not true.

There is still so, so much to be grateful for.

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
— Tecumseh

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Self-help writer with 3M+ views on Medium and Quora. Covering personal growth, relationship skills, and career growth.

Columbus, OH

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