Gratitude in Difficult Times

October 25, 2017
The Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

UTO HelpersFirst off, my apologies: your e-news is coming out a little late this month because I was waiting for the Ingathering totals for September so we could announce all of the contest winners at once. Thank you to all of you who have called or emailed asking where your e-news was! It’s great to know that you look forward to it and that it’s useful to you. I promise, I won’t forget to send one. To be honest, it’s also a little late because I’ve been struggling a bit to write a reflection. Each time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve found my mind drifting to the things I’m worried about – the recovery in Puerto Rico, the fires in California, the shooting in Las Vegas, refugee resettlement issues, DACA, and sometimes the simple things I’m just trying to get done around my house (which seem really petty in this list, but it’s true). So, I kept thinking, what can I say about gratitude that wouldn’t sound hollow in the midst of all of this? Well, I think it has to do with looking for ways to be grateful in the midst of, and in spite of, challenging times. Many of you have probably seen the quote from Fred Rogers on the internet about looking for the helpers, and here it is for those that haven’t:

I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels. For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world. There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

As a mom, I am really grateful for this statement. I try to point out to my children as much as possible when we see someone helping. I try to teach them to be helpers, to develop the ability to perceive how someone else feels, in spite of how they might feel. I want them to feel safe, but I also want them to understand that others experience the world differently than they do and that they can be a part of changing that. So, how do we do that? Well, it starts with me. In difficult times, when I start to get overwhelmed, I need to look for the helpers and help support them. I need to look for them in the heart of the disaster, and I need to be grateful. Like many of you, I give money, I send supplies (only if asked to), I pray, and I call my representatives. I do everything I can to support those who can help, and who I hope help on my behalf. But that often doesn’t feel like enough. When I read Mister Rogers’ quote again this past weekend, I realized that the “more” that I can do is to give thanks for the helpers in the midst of my daily life with greater intention.

There are helpers all around us working to make our lives better and easier, and these brave people are the ones that will come to my help if a disaster were to strike in my life. The helpers are sometimes as simple as the man who stopped me from running my jacket over with the shopping cart at Target when it was flung out by a toddler, who as I thanked him, laughed and said that he should have thought about getting back up off the floor when he offered to help. Or the friend who cleaned up the front yard after the girls’ birthday party, and when I thanked him he simply said, “We’re family, that’s what we do.” There are helpers all around – neighbors, volunteers, and friends. All of these helpers are reasons to rejoice and give thanks. We just have to pay attention and see the helpers, and find hope in their actions. And, I believe, we have to give thanks because, in our gratitude, we can fight off the discouragement or belief that being a helper isn’t worth it. I hope that people see me as a helper, or at the very least a grateful recipient of help. With that said, to all of you who have helped me or supported me, thank you. Each of you reading this is a helper to me. When you practice gratitude, you make the world a better place for me and for my kids. Thank you.

Tagged in: Gratitude