In the northern hemisphere, the harvest is in, winter is upon us, Canada has already celebrated, Britain too, and this week it is the turn of people in the United States to gather to give thanks.

A question: What does it mean to give thanks when everything "goes wrong"? Are we supposed to push all the horrible things in life out of our thoughts and try to find some good things to be thankful for?

Maybe you are thankful because you made some nice friends this year. But what if you lost friends this year, and you found yourself quite alone?

Maybe you are thankful for a new boyfriend or girlfriend. But what if your heart's breaking because the boy or girl you love has moved half way across the nation?

It's easy to be thankful for a marriage that has blessed you for thiry, forty, fifty years. But how is a newlywed whose spouse was killed in a car crash on their honeymoon to give thanks?

If a relationship you were once thankful for is ending in divorce, or the career you thanked your lucky stars for when you were hired has gone sour, how do you give thanks?

If we are thankful when people are nice to us but not when they hurt us, or thankful when things work out well but not when they go "all wrong," there are going to be a great many days we don't feel at all thankful.

If we are thankful for smiley-face things but hate everything painful, I wonder if we're not missing what Thanksgiving is really all about. Because from its inception Thanksgiving was rooted in the realities of life's disappointments, suffering, and pain. It came at the end of an extremely harsh period in the lives of the Pilgrims.

Joseph Choate, American ambassador to the court of St James in England many years ago, was once called upon for a toast to the Pilgrim Fathers at the annual Pilgrim dinner in London. He lauded the brave settlers who withstood New England's harsh winters, the threat of Indians, hunger, and privation to establish the Plymouth colony. But he gave his highest accolade to the Pilgrim Mothers. "Not only did they have to endure everything the Pilgrim fathers endured," he said, "they also had to endure the Pilgrim fathers."

There is a lot to endure in all our lives, and there always has been as long as there have been people. So, how can we be thankful when things aren't pleasant?

Authentic thanksgiving springs from a sense that we are upheld by a truth that is deeper and more profound and enduring than life's greatest pleasures or coldest realities.

Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote that great story about Long John Silver and Treasure Island, said, "To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life."

Thankgiving isn't rooted in whether the specific events of life make us feel good or feel miserable. Thanksgiving is an attitude of gratitude for what life with its ups and downs gives us the chance to make of ourselves.

I am learning to be thankful for everything life sends my way because I am realizing that I can use it to become the best person I am capable of becoming.

It's fine to be thankful for family and friends, for houses and cars, for clothing and food, for work and vacations, for health. But if we see them as ends in themselves, as if they are what life is about, how will we give thanks when they are gone?

Every experience has a dark, shadowy side. Every freedom has its responsibility, every love its liability. We can never hang on to anything or anyone forever. People, things, events are just the context of our growing ability to be who we truly are.

Whether we are born into the world as a blonde bombshell, or as a distorted caricature like the Hunchback of Notre Dame—whether we are born in Buckingham Palace and become a queen, or from a rape in Darfur and find ourselves an outcast, we can be thankful—if we will allow our circumstances to bring out the best in us—for then we become a person for whom others are thankful.

Author's Bio: 

David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self Mirrored in Jesus the Christ and the audio book Lessons in Loving--A Journey into the Heart, both from Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors.

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