Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The 30 Days of Gratitude Debate

There's a FB thing going on: each day in November, post something for which you're grateful.
I don't usually bother with those sorts of posts.  Way too much discipline for me, to remember something for 30 days in a row.  Or even to get started on the first day. 
But this year, I'm giving it a try.  (Having started on the second day, or maybe the third.  I can't remember.)
Some astute writers have criticized this effort.  (Not me personally, but in general.)  Too public.  Too likely to generate social media envy.  Too likely to turn into bragging.
I get that; I totally get that.  Often when people post about the triumphs of their children or their own glorious parenting experiences, I metaphorically curl up in sadness.  I think, "Yeah, that used to be me, but no more."  And I am sure that some of my own posts have the same effects on others, including people who have become dear friends due to our losses of beloved children.
But when I read the gratefulness posts from many of my friends, what I see is not misplaced triumphalism, but miracles.  I have so many friends now who have in recent years lost parents or spouses or children or homes or jobs or health (and some of them have lost in more than one of those categories), and when I see their expressions of gratitude for the small gifts of life, I think: miracle.
There is a woman with whom I am FB friends who lost her son to suicide five months ago.  This evening she posted something that caused me to go back and look at what I had been writing at five months.  It was the beginning of February, and I was back in seminary.  As I told this friend, I recall feeling as if I were underwater all the time.  Here's some of what I blogged:
"[I]t is nearly 9:00 am and I am just getting up. I was awake three hours ago but I knew that would make for too many hours in the day and so I went back to sleep. I will be up late into the night because I won't be able to sleep then.

[I] have to pace myself carefully. I am doing things: going to class, studying, writing papers, working with a couple of people, planning for the future. Each takes so much energy and requires so much recovery time. I forget what I've focused on within five minutes of reading or hearing it. I look at notes and say to myself: We had an entire lecture on that? I lose everything, little things and really important things. I stumble across them later and can't imagine how they landed in the place they did. I write papers and have no idea whether they bear any resemblance to what is expected. I make schedules for accomplishing things and then I stare into space.

I am still writing thank-you notes. The cost of each one is so high. Only a few lines, but each reminds me of something else ~ a relationship, an occasion in the past, someone else entirely whose claim on my time is perhaps more urgent. I did not know, Before, that when I received an acknowledgment from someone for flowers or words offered in a time of sorrow, that the note itself might represent a morning's work. Or a week's."
I could not at that time have come up with a single thing for which to be grateful.  And I have plenty of moments, five years later, when the grief washes over me with such intensity that I wonder whether I will still be able to breathe when it recedes.  But I also have much for which I feel genuine gratitude.
I am doing 30 days, more or less, of gratitude because I can.  And that seems kind of huge to me.


  1. Thanks for this. I struggle with Facebook bragging, but I didn't put this in the same category until I read Marci's post. I appreciate your perspective. Always.

  2. Like you I am engaging this discipline. I was taken aback by the criticism of it but decided that it has proven to be an important spiritual preparation for Advent. So I persevere.

    Blessings and peace and prayers. I draw strength from your wisdom..

  3. I have not experienced a whole lot of "Facebook bragging." But then, I don't have that many friends. The ones I do have, I'm genuinely happy for them when they post about a victory or a milestone or something that makes them happy. And I WANT to hear this stuff...that's why I am Facebook friends with them. There's are plenty of things out there that deserve criticism. This isn't one of them.

  4. Honest, simple, humble gratitude seems never out of place...I am also glad you can.