Gratitude in Times of Despair

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in this world.” ~Mr. Rogers

Hi everyone! Happy Thanksgiving week. I hope you all have many love-filled plans with the special people in your life. As I sit in the Savannah airport, I look at the many televisions at each gate, and they are all broadcasting various stories about the Paris terrorist attacks, airplanes that are getting shot down, and the many people overseas who are getting kidnapped and taken from their families. The families also getting ready to board their airplanes all stare at the screens in despair, including toddlers and very young people. As we approach the holiday season and the holiday intended to celebrate gratitude, how do we make sure that we take care of ourselves and allow ourselves to feel that gratitude when so much of our world is in pain?

It is so easy to get lost in the thought spiral of why do things like this happen, how can people do these sorts of horrendous, hurtful things, how can I feel joyful when there are so many tragedies overseas? I am not sure how to get out of this spiral for I get lost in it myself. It is incredibly challenging to not get sucked into the news’ stories, and even harder to separate oneself from the tragedy once you hear it. One of the most valuable quotes that gets me through these challenging times is the above Mr. Rogers’ quote. While there are some people in this earth who do things that we may not be able to imagine or make sense of, the number of people who run into the tragedy to help, to love, to care for, outweighs all else. Think of the ying yang sign- there is always good in the bad, bad in the good. This is a prime example of the good within the bad. There are so many heroes and so many lovers here, including all of you who so badly feel for those struggling right now.

Another thing that helps me is reminding myself that it is okay, and also extremely important, to feel these sad feelings. I can’t imagine what those in Paris may be feeling right now, and having empathy for their situation shows strength. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone, but it is feeling the pain with someone. Struggling through the difficult times with them. Empathy is one of the best gifts you can give to another person. It’s not saying “that’s a shame, I will watch from the sidelines as you struggle”, but saying “this is a shame and I am going to be here with you.” Obviously I am not saying we should all go overseas and introduce ourselves to everyone affected by all of these devastations, but I am saying that you can let yourself grapple with these feelings of hurt and pain, too.

Lastly, especially given the time of year, I encourage everyone to feel extremely grateful. Feel grateful for who will be at your Thanksgiving table. Think about the characteristics you admire in them and what you learn from them. Feel grateful for the holiday cheer, and for the silly traditions you have with your friends. Feel grateful for the work holiday parties, even if your boss kind of gets on your nerves. Feel grateful for the paycheck that allows you to buy your girlfriend a gift. Let yourself feel how loved you are. And know that I am grateful for each and every one of you.

What are you grateful for this year?

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