A prayer on gratitude. The definition of gratitude is being thankful, appreciative, or willing to return kindness.
As I think on gratitude, I think of being kind. Many people are not grateful for things until it is taken away from them. Tonight I am grateful for all of the events that happened this year to get me where I am today. I am grateful for sports throughout my life because now that I am no longer playing them I can see the major impact they had on my life. I am grateful for my family, and the time and memories I have been able to experience due to being in quarantine. I am grateful for sunshine on days and rain on others. All of these things come from the Lord, who allows us to grow each day and experience his love. I am truly grateful for that.
If we are grateful for the “pennies” in our lives, or the small things, then when big things come we are able to appreciate them so much more. We are able to return kindness to those around us. We can choose daily not to overlook the small things that we can be grateful for, even among the chaos that can be thrown at us each day. The Lord allows us another day to praise him, so I will choose to appreciate that and use it to glorify his name! (Ellison Barrett, Florence, Alabama)
Psalm 34; Psalm 65; Psalm 100; Psalm 117; Psalm 136
Bible Verses for the Day:
On Day 26 my mom brought us tacos. There’s a place in my hometown that used to be a drive-thru only, burger and fries joint, but when the franchise chain fell on hard times, I imagine it closed down. Although I’m not sure, because it was the burger franchise when I left for college, and then over a decade later when I moved back to my hometown (no, it did not take me a decade to finish school, but it would be perfectly okay if it did), it was a local taqueria, still with only drive-thru service. Now it’s trendy to eat there, but my husband and I have been eating there for well over 10 years. We call it “Tacos in a Box,” which is not the business’s actual name, but the building looks like a box and hence our nickname.
On Day 26, my mom brought us “Tacos in a Box.” She pulled up in front of our house and yelled for me to come to the window. “I brought you tacos!” she called up triumphantly as she shook the bag in the air like she’d just won an Olympic medal. She left them on a folding chair by our door. Blake quickly pulled them in like he was Gollum finding his precious ring and soon after, wearing an N95, delivered my share upstairs. As I sat at the hand-me-down Elmo and Friends, Sesame Street preschool-sized folding table we put in Flynn’s room on Day 1 of isolation, I cried tears of joy to taste the most wonderfully delicious street taco on the planet. I closed my teary eyes and savored every bite. If you could eat gratitude for dinner, I’m sure that’s what it would taste like. You see, I had lost my senses of taste and smell a few weeks prior, and I wanted nothing more than to taste these, and very specifically these, tacos.
We’ve experienced a lot of emotions on this journey, but gratitude has been the one that has fueled our will to keep surviving day after day. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for the kindness that has been shown to us. Our church has delivered meals and activities for the kids. People will walk by our house and call up for us to come to the window so they can pray with us or just have human social contact. Some send treats for our kids. The best is when we open the mailbox and it’s flooded with cards. We are beyond blessed and we have much for which to be thankful, and our community is at the top of that list.
But I’m not too naïve to think that everyone with Coronavirus has a huge community of kind people rallying behind them. They don’t. And I’m acutely aware that this is not the norm.
I just finished a book about a mother and her son making a long and treacherous journey from southern Mexico to the United States. It was fictional, but heartbreaking and real, nonetheless. As I read the author’s description of the harsh travel circumstances and migrant living conditions, the stark realization that actual people on a similar journey face disease weighed heavy on my heart. They will face Coronavirus, homeless and on the run, trying to create a better life for themselves, suddenly stymied by this disease.
I think of my friends who live in apartments and condos, who don’t have the yard space to extend their isolation area outdoors like we did. I think of people who are alone and already suffering. Who will take care of them when they get sick? I think of our city’s homeless population and pray daily they don’t have to endure this disease on top of all their other hardships.
I am sharply aware of every one of my blessings and give thanks and praise to God daily. And it’s not just the material things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that my family is still standing. We’re all not fully recovered, but we got knocked down and we eventually stood back up. We had two hospitalized in our extended family. They had to be dropped off at the emergency room entrance, alone, not knowing their fate. I can’t even imagine their fear. On the day they were released, gratitude exploded from our hearts and our souls. When I was at my sickest, I took my blood oxygen levels, my temperature, and my blood pressure, on the hour, every hour. My heart swelled with gratitude each time the numbers improved. When they did not improve, or they worsened, fear took over.
You see, gratitude is a tool God has given you to defeat fear.
Whenever my kids are afraid, I ask them to start listing things they are thankful for. We’ve pulled over in a parking lot before a school day that required bravery and made our list. We’ve made the list in the storm shelter during a tornado warning. We’ve made the list at the doctor’s office, when she says, “Okay the nurse will be right back in with the shots.” Listing all the things you’re thankful for will suck the fear right out of your mind.
But gratitude is much more than thankfulness. Gratitude is when you’re so thankful, you want to return the kindness. You want other people to experience the same joy that’s exploding in your heart as you count your blessings and give thanks. Gratitude is a gift of kindness and joy, tied with a ribbon of thanksgiving.
I’m itching to get out of isolation, mostly to hug my daughter and eat unlimited tacos, but also because I’m ready to show my gratitude. I know that my community, my tribe, did not shower us with kindness to receive anything in return, but I’m excited to have the freedom to create that opportunity. I’ve already told the sweet woman who runs the committee at church that delivers meals to sign me up, that she can always count on me for a casserole, or five. I’m ready. I plan to donate plasma because I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do so. I plan to only shop local at the businesses who let me shop by phone, text, or Facebook comment, and then delivered to my doorstep because I couldn’t leave my house. I will be a customer for life.
There are a lot of ways that you can be thankful and show your gratitude, but I have a favor to ask of you, a challenge if you will, since we live in a world of social media challenges, for my non-COVID positive friends. Those of us who are dealing with COVID isolation are stuck inside our homes, and our window to the world is social media and television. The picture that is painted is not pretty. In fact, it’s ugly. When we leave our quarantine, we will walk out our doors and enter a world of polarizing divisiveness. Neighbor pitted against neighbor, arguing about topics that aren’t rooted in kindness and love, but rather selfishness and pride. The world has been shattered and to be honest, I’m afraid of what it looks like out there, beyond the safety of my quarantine.
My challenge to you (my non-COVID positive friends) is this: If you wake up and you can breathe without coughing or wheezing because the virus hasn’t taken over your lungs, be grateful. If you wake up fever free, be grateful. If you can walk from your bedroom to your kitchen to get a glass of water without collapsing with fatigue, be grateful. If your child can pat you on the back and you don’t have body aches so severe that you feel like your body will break in half, be grateful.
Wake up and be grateful.
Most of all, remember that gratitude is when you are so thankful, you want to return the kindness. Return that kindness to the world, one neighbor and one random act at a time. Sometimes being kind is scary and so far out of our comfort zone, that we don’t know where to start. Gratitude is the tool that God gave you to defeat fear. Be grateful. And be kind to everyone. Be the light. Those of us who haven’t seen the outside world in 40 days are depending on it.
Tips from a weary mama:
When we got sick, a lot of people offered to help. If you are sick, or a loved one gets sick, TAKE THE HELP. I know it’s hard, but remember gratitude is about sharing your joy. The person that wants to help you likely wants to share their joy because they are grateful. Let them.
Years ago, one of my college roommates from the dorms, gave me a gratitude journal. Writing in that book was one of my first experiences acknowledging my blessings in pen and ink on paper. What are you grateful for? Do yourself a favor and don’t write the obvious. I know you are thankful for your family, your church, your job, your house, etc. Be more specific. I am thankful for the tiny freckle on my son’s back because it reminds me of his first trip to the beach. I am thankful for that one long curl on my daughter’s head that she won’t let me trim to even it out because it reminds me that she has her own style and is confident in it. Write that stuff.
Father, thank you for the gift of this day and the gift of your creation… as confusing as both might be. We find ourselves traveling through this temporal life asking questions about our surroundings, the people in our path, the places we travel and the ways we choose to spend our time. Help us, we pray, to be reminded of your presence and love in all things we do. Let our words be your words, and let your love be the love we share with others. Calm us as we find conflict and strife our daily lives, give us open eyes to see those who we can serve, and open our ears to the whispers of the Holy Spirit as this day unfolds. Remind us in the evening that you were with us during the times we felt most alone and distant from you, and refresh us with the knowledge our faith is built on the foundation that love is the way. In the name of grace, compassion and the unconditional love of Jesus, we pray. Amen. (Grant Thompson, Decatur, Alabama)
You should really eat at “Tacos in a Box.”