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Gratitude Is A Lifesaver

Gratitude Is A Lifesaver October 10, 2020

Gratitude Saves Lives
Gratitude / Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay

Gratitude saves even in the darkest days.

Dark thoughts sometimes enter the head. When this happens, an exercise in gratitude is a beneficial prescription. Thérèse of Lisieux nailed it when she declared, “It all comes down to confidence and gratitude.”

Dark thoughts are plentiful now. 210K dead. Gross dereliction from Governors, employers, and bishops. The threat of civil war grows, and environmental catastrophe looms. There are so many uncertainties about the future.

Gratitude and Anger

Sometimes I give you personal stories. So here’s another. Last Spring, right as the magnitude of the pandemic began to be taken seriously, I lost my job and my home. It was vicious. My home wasn’t lost immediately. But there I was, with the inevitable approaching, with home suddenly a hostile environment. I live alone, and COVID-19 made things very isolating.

I finally lost my home this past June. This was the tail-end of a drama begun back in March 2020.

God Sent Friends

Now to chase away dark thoughts, here comes a river of gratitude. Two friends who actively listened to my pain from malicious others’ shameful actions stood up and told my story. These were two Catholics with spinal columns, rare lifeforms among an ocean of mollusks, and jellyfish. They also put together a fundraiser. Ultimately, they risked a lot in doing this in ways I can’t elaborate on.

Through the cold, lonely months since I was forced to resign my position, my editor and fellow bloggers gave me incredible spiritual support. So did many online friends I met through Patheos. So did loved ones, solid gold friends met through ministry work have been God’s helpers and lifelines for me.

Meanwhile, a retired couple at high risk to catch COVID-19 took me into their home when I left my apartment in late June. They gave me more than just a roof and a place for my lazy boy and plug for my CPAP machine (my days ahead are far fewer than those behind). I received genuine love and friendship, as they spent time with me. They made me feel like a son again. I don’t have blood family—they died decades ago. 

Another retired couple spent a great deal helping me with shelter for two months more. I am blown away by their kindness and generosity. They also have treated me as a son.

Gratitude for Human Contact

Humans need love. It’s hard to go so long without embrace, without human touch. You work in a church, and you’re male, so there will be ignorant people who automatically suspect you as a pedophile. For years before 2020, it’s been freezing for me in South Florida church work.

Working for the Church, it’s easy to get caught in the vice of depression. I know the ghost of depression very well, as it has haunted both my mother and father. And it haunts me also. You can join the masquerade and try to fake it, but that way is as deadly as the Red Death. How can someone ever escape that Black Hole?

Gratitude Escape

Exit only comes with gratitude. No matter how dark things are, I am not alone–that must be acknowledged gratefully. My blood relatives may be dead, but I am not bereft of family. My friends are the family I have been given by God. They regularly give me opportunities to express gratitude (will I take up the opportunity, or centripetally wallow?). I am far from being the best of writers, so my words are too inadequate to express the light shining in my heart for them. But they are life-savers. That isn’t an exaggeration. When the darkness comes, I remember them. They call me. They text me. 

Many people came together to really help me. It wasn’t “thoughts and prayers” BS. It was real prayer, the fire that transforms.

The two brothers who set up the fundraiser set a lofty goal. The goal was reached. I am so thankful for all my fellow dying inmates who gave. But their giving this year of shadows is far more than money and shelter and job opportunities. 

Imperfect Gratitude

Unhappy thoughts still come, of course. We are all traveling through the dark days. But a Happy Wanderer once taught your poor fellow dying inmate that it is impossible to be both grateful and unhappy. This truth helped save my life. 

This is true even though I seldom follow it. I fall prey to entitlement thinking and self-pity. I am weak. What would you expect from a fellow dying inmate? But life-saving gratitude, despite my worst traits, has managed, on occasion, to soak into my stony heart enough to get me through gut-wrenching seasons. It assists me in healing my resentment and rage, and I’ve got plenty. Gratitude is a powerful ally facing depression.  

What a Jesuit Taught Me About Gratitude

Father Anthony De Mello, the Happy Wanderer, once taught me to steal away to “a meditative environment.” Once there, I was to repeatedly say to myself, “How fortunate I am! How grateful I am!” And as I did so, I was to recall the many blessings of my life. They can be epic, but the remarkable events shouldn’t blot out all those wonderfully humdrum everyday gifts, like those unremarkable happenings of yesterday. These must be recalled in gratefulness also.

And not only pleasant blessings, but the unpleasant ones as well. Even the injustice where God, who is no sadist, cannot be found causally. But even there, one can still find seeds of growth and opportunity for gratitude. 

Prayer of Hope

Please pray for your Fellow Dying Inmate that he listens to the wisdom of Juliana of Norwich. She speaks to us through the ages in an excellent piercing insight—

“And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.” 

 

 


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