Meeting Adversity with Gratitude

When something goes out of joint in life, it’s very easy for me to focus on it at the expense of almost everything else.

Most recently, I really boiled over with rage at the Republican legislature in Kentucky who overturned the governor’s mask mandate for schools while hospitals are at or beyond capacity and COVID cases are dangerously pervasive in communities. The stated reason for this change was purely about asserting the power of the legislature over the governor, not based on public health concerns or scientific data.

As a parent with three children impacted by that mandate, I have really struggled with anger and a seething rage at power hungry politicians seeking to score points rather than seeking the safety of children with a very reasonable emergency public health measure.

But gosh, what good does anger and rage do me or anyone else right now? Once I call out the absurdity of the legislature for what it is, now what?

My contemplative practices have certainly been heavily taxed right now. Letting go of anger or afflictive thoughts requires a lot of intention and grace.

It feels like I’m taking a hit on the chin and have to return with a smile. I’ll just say, it’s not a great feeling!

But there’s more I can do than simply let go of my anger and forgive those compromising the safety of children for the sake of politics. I can also look at what is going well and what I can influence.

It has been well within my power to both write to my school board and school principals about the safety of children wearing masks, and I have been quick to thank our school board and principals for continuing to have children in our town wear masks in school while the local case count remains extremely high.

All of the highs and lows we’ve been through since the 2016 election that seemed to throw so much of our assumed stability and shared reality into turmoil and the pandemic’s trauma has reminded me to be thankful for what we have right now. The stability of today just isn’t guaranteed for tomorrow.

It would take too long to recall how much we’ve lost over the past five years. Even so, I find myself badly in need of expressing my gratitude to God for what remains.

I’m grateful that at least many of local leaders are still guided by science and not politics.

I’m grateful for a church that continues to offer a sacred space to pray and to worship.

I’m grateful that my family continues to be safe even if quarantines have been quite hard.

I’m grateful for outdoor seating where I can still gather with others without worries of being infected with COVID indoors.

I’m grateful for doctors, nurses, and staff in the hospitals who continue to work very hard with so little support or sympathy for their plight.

In stressful and disruptive moments, there is a lot of value in seeing our problems and challenges for what they are. It can help to talk about them with others and to journal about them. Yet, at a certain point, we have to let go of what we can’t change right now. Personal ruminating or co-ruminating about concerns can become a dead end of sorts.

It’s good for me to practice letting go of my anger or concerns, especially as I practice centering prayer, but there’s a lot more I can do. I can focus on what’s going right, and the blessings that can be obscured by adversity.

If there is one thing we can count on in the days to come, it’s that plenty more adversity is coming our way before things get better. Now is the time to grow in gratitude in order to withstand what’s coming in the days ahead.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash