I am currently sitting on the sofa at my mother-in-law’s beach house. It is a modest, two-level townhouse style home, attached to one other house via the living room wall. It sits about 500 yards from the pacific ocean, protected from the harsh winds of Cape Kiwanda by a large sand dune. It is quiet now. My wife is hanging out with our two oldest girls, the youngest is asleep, and my mother-in-law is out for a jog on the beach.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about gratitude. As I sat on the beach yesterday with a cold beer, watching my two oldest girls build sand castles, I got to thinking about the culture we live in, and how we are taught from the womb to want more. Don’t believe me? Watch television for longer than 5 minutes and you’ll see professional marketing teams doing their best to convince you that you can’t live without their new car, their new burger, or their new beer.
As we are raising three girls, we do our best to convey and instill in them a thankful heart. When they start grumbling about how dinner isn’t exactly what they want, we remind them that some kids don’t get dinner. As they complain about how they’ve read this book already, or played this game, we remind them that a lot of kids around not only the world, but right in our city, aren’t fortunate enough to have toys of their own.
As a millennial, I’m naturally drawn to the idea of resistance. What does it look like when someone, or a group of people, decide to resist the system? It looks like Martin Luther King. It looks like the Arab Spring. It looks like a group of protesters begging for the world to realize that Black Lives Matter.
Resistance is controversial. It disrupts the status quo. It throws a wrench into the well-oiled machine of “this is how we’ve always done it.” It empowers a the powerless, and gives voice to the silenced.
As I sat on that beach yesterday, sipping that ale, I started to think about gratitude as resistance. It’s not flashy. It’s not public. I’m not going on television, or using a hashtag. But what if it were just as meaningful?
I’m grateful for my family. I have a beautiful wife who loves me, and three incredible daughters who are turning into the funniest, kindest little girls. My parents are still happily married after 38 years, they live 10 minutes from me, and we actually get along. My sister and her husband live nearby with three more gorgeous daughters. Family isn’t always easy. We fight, we bicker, we get angry, but we stick with it. In a culture that says, “you deserve to be happy, have the affair,” I’ve chosen gratitude for my family.
I’m grateful for my job. I have a wonderful job, at a company that I love, doing something interesting. I draw a modest salary. Nothing to write home about, but enough that we can pay our bills, buy everything we need, and a few things that we want. It pays enough that my wife can stay home and raise our girls, something she’s always dreamed of doing. That is all made possible by my job. It’s not perfect, but it provides what we need.
I’m grateful for my country. Hear me out. I’m not a patriotic guy. I choose not to say the pledge of allegiance. It’s not that I hate America. Far from it. I am incredibly grateful for the privileges that I have simply by being born in this country. I can walk into any hospital in the country and they have to treat me, regardless of whether or not I’m insured. I can walk into any grocery store and unless there’s some sort of natural disaster, the shelves will be stocked with food.
I’m grateful for my safety. So many of my brothers and sisters can’t say this. I can tell my children, without any hesitation, that if they feel unsafe, they can go find a police officer, because the police are there to help them. I can tell them this because they are white skinned kids. So many of my black friends can’t say this. They can’t tell their kids with a straight face that the system will protect them, or look out for them, because all it takes is 5 minutes of CNN or Twitter to see that this is simply not the case.
There are untold other things that I can be thankful for. My cars (multiple), my food, my home, my 401k, or the beach house that I’m currently sitting in that I didn’t have to pay for. Every time I choose to be grateful for all of this, in a culture that tells me I should always be striving for more, I practice resistance. I take part in opposing the system. The system that tells me that I deserve the affair, or that cheating my way to a promotion is the right thing, or that if I just vote for the right candidate, all my needs will be taken care of. The system that tells me that my happiness is the most important thing in the world, and that whatever I have to do to make myself happy is not only okay, but in my best interest.
I don’t know your situation. I don’t know what battles you have to fight on a daily basis. Maybe you lost the job, or the house, or the baby, or the husband, or the 401k dried up. Maybe it feels like there’s nothing to be thankful for. Like the whole world is hell bent on your destruction. At the risk of sounding like a self-help preacher, find something. Find the smallest thing in your life to be thankful for. Did you wake up in a bed this morning? Did you have a cup of coffee? Is there enough money in your bank account to pay your bills? Regardless of whatever else is going on, the light is winning, and hope is here.
All you have to do is reach out and grab it.