Note: The St. Louis Review offers occasional editorials and opinions from other Catholic publications. This editorial was published in The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
November is often referred to as Gratitude Month. Perhaps because this is the month in which we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we place more emphasis than usual on this particular virtue, and we encourage each other to be more grateful and generous at this time of year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every aspect of human culture worldwide, and here in the United States our observance of Thanksgiving is no exception.
Many people are struggling to find reasons to be grateful given the people who have died and the pandemic’s impact on our health, our worship, our economy and our ordinary ways of living. How should we respond to this crisis?
First and foremost, it’s essential that we identify reasons for genuine gratitude. A gratitude list identifies those things for which we are most grateful. When we can focus on those things that are truly blessings in our life, and when we’re able to express sincere appreciation for the goodness we experience even in our darkest days, it’s impossible to be defeated by the gloom around us.
What kind of things should we place on our gratitude list? Everyone will have his or her own personal items, but here are some reasons for gratitude that most people have in common:
Life. Too often we take for granted this most precious blessing from God. From the moment of conception to the experience of natural death, life is an inexpressible gift. Certainly this gift is often accompanied by hardship and pain, but even in its most difficult moments, life is worth living and it compels us to say “thank you” to the author of all life and to the people who are closest to us, sharing our lives most intimately.
Love. Where would we be without the ability to love and be loved? The result would be madness, the inability to cope with all the obstacles that are placed in the way of our health and happiness as individuals and as a society. Christians believe that God is love, and we trust that this divine love is stronger than evil, sin and death. We should thank God daily for the love shown to us — not just by God, but by all the people (spouses, family members, friends, neighbors, even strangers) who care about us and who sacrifice their own interest to ensure our individual welfare and the common good.
Freedom. As Americans, we cherish the freedoms that are at the heart of who we are as a people. We honor the women and men who came before us, giving their lives to ensure our ability to reject tyranny and terror and to live free and independent lives as faithful citizens of one nation under God with liberty and justice for all. Conscious that this great vision of freedom and justice for all has never been fully realized, we nevertheless thank God and the founders of our nation for giving us the opportunity to work together to build a future full of hope for all our brothers and sisters, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, social or economic status, and way of life.
Religion. We give thanks for the religious traditions and spiritual principles we have received from our mothers and fathers in faith. In America, we are blessed with a great diversity of faith traditions that has shaped our national identity and that exercise great influence over our ways of living. Even those among us who have no formal religious or spiritual orientation benefit from the wisdom and humanity built into our customs and laws by people who believed that our nation has been blessed by God and, therefore, must be held accountable to the highest standards of justice and equality. We have reason to give thanks for the freedom to believe, or not, and to act in accordance with our deepest personal convictions.
We have many reasons to be thankful during this Gratitude Month 2020 in spite of all the hardships and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. At the very least, we can be grateful for those we loved and lost because of COVID-19, for the health care workers and service personnel who put themselves in harm’s way caring for our needs, and for all the women and men we are spiritually close to (even if socially distant) during these strange times.