By Brandon Nappi
I believe that as long as we are alive, there is more right with us than is wrong with us. While we cannot always be grateful for everything, we can always be thankful in everything. There is always something to be thankful for.
This can be especially challenging in this contentious political climate in which we have kindled a paranoia about our basic safety along with a kind of fundamental distrust of other’s motives. We stoke the flames of fear by talking about how hopelessly broken the world is and how nefarious other people’s intentions are.
Of course, there is no shortage of evidence for the world’s brokenness and people’s malicious motivations as we see concert goers gunned down in Las Vegas or worshippers murdered in a Texas church sanctuary. Within our own lives, friends quarrel, family members refuse to speak to one another, loved ones get sick, co-workers scheme, and our beloved pets die. The levels of suffering in our lives can seem overwhelming.
There is a temptation to catastrophize our lives and the current political situation in a way that exaggerates the truth and leaves us feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. Rather than respond to the way things actually are, the ego loves to create dramas and elaborate storylines about how bad everything is. To be sure, there is much suffering in our world. To be sure, there are countless injustices globally and within our communities that need our urgent attention and action. Yet by nearly ever metric, our world is getting better: life expectancy, rates of poverty, income distribution, education levels and nutrition are all headed in a more equitable direction.
Of course, there is still much work to do to ease suffering and help more and more people flourish in mind body and spirit. Gratitude must not become a form of privileged escapism where we hide from the suffering of the world and our responsibility to alleviate it. Yet the kind of change that we work for cannot be fueled with the energy of bitterness and fear. We will simply recreate familiar cycles of unhappiness, worry, and fear unless we learn to bring an alternate energy source to our challenges.
Gratitude is a limitless source of energy when we feel overwhelmed by the struggles of our lives or the world. Gratitude can be a powerful resource to free ourselves from the trap of cynicism and despair. Ask yourself, “What’s right with this moment?” There’s always an answer no matter how dire the situation.
The practice of gratitude immediately activates our present moment awareness. We wake up to the blessing of what has been there all along though we may not have noticed it. It might be the presence of a friend, the smell of fallen leaves, the familiar melody of a favorite song; or it might be the kindness of a stranger, the affection of a pet, the crisp first bite of an apple.
Using the energy of gratitude, we can begin to bring appreciation to our lives and realize that there is actually much to be grateful for in every moment no matter what is happening. With this powerful energy of appreciation we can courageously generate the light necessary to dispel the darkness.