Maybe your Thanksgiving will be quieter and/or less busy than it has been in other years. So, here’s my challenge, especially if you are feeling low: journal a list of 20 things you are grateful for that are specific to the year 2020. Try to focus on 20 things that have come to you this year or you have learned or experienced that you would not have were it not for the events of this year. This is not to diminish the real pain, turmoil, and loss we’ve collectively experienced. This is not to romanticize anything about a raging virus, the real inequities that have been made vividly clear, or the political turmoil we’ve endured. This is to take time to see where the pain, turmoil, and loss has cracked us open to new mercies. And how can those new mercies make us better people?
I’ve made it to eleven so far, and my original plan was to share them here, but many of them are too raw and personal to share online with my first and last name attached. I have to share a couple of examples, though, since I’m asking others to do it. My list ranges from “small” things like Click List at Kroger (which I was regretfully pretty judgey and eye-rolly about when it came out a couple of years ago only to be delighted that the mechanism was nicely in place when I needed it!) to more brutal things like the example below:
Number 9: Humiliation. This year came to bring all of us to a lowered place. We had a few options in responding: to kick and scream and object to anything we perceived as loss, to ruefully adjust and grumble and whine, or to be taken low, to let go, to see things anew. The pandemic showed me how little control I have. I couldn’t find any way to solve things or help besides staying home. The voices of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color came bringing Truth in a time where I could not distract myself from the shame. More generally, I have seen houses built upon the sand go sliding away in every direction. It’s not been just humbling. It’s been humiliating. But I’m grateful for it because denial and repentance cannot coexist. There’s so far still to go, but I know these things now: I don’t want to ignorantly see things through cultural lenses. I don’t want historical myths to cloud my heart. I want to see things clearly. I want to see things from down on the ground, aching and muddy. I don’t want to love half-way. I want to love like my God does, the God who came by way of bloody human birth, who spit and rubbed sight into a man’s eyes, who held up mirrors to the powerful and was murdered for it. I don’t want to turn from the reflection he shows me. I want to recognize I’m more Zacchaeus than the poor people he exploited. I want to come down like Zacchaeus, to make changes and make things right. It takes this humbling humiliation.
The list will hurt. It will take a while. But I think we owe it to ourselves and to this weary world to shift perspectives. We still have a ways to go before any of this gets better. For myself, I hope by making the choice today to look for mercies, to look for where the scars of my pruning may blossom into a more fruitful tomorrow, that I may offer a better version of myself to the world.