I went to bed last night feeling yucky. I know that’s not a real feeling, but it best describes the mix of emotions that were bubbling up inside of me. I felt restless, irritable, and discontent. I had my reasons. I’d been misunderstood and judged by a friend. My bank account did not promise extra income for Black Friday. I was still nursing my wounds from a battle with Comcast (Comcast won). I could go on . . . .

I woke up this morning remembering a commitment that I have made to myself every year in anticipation of the giving and taking that we call the “happy holidays” — that I would spend an hour each day giving thanks. I decided that it might not be a bad idea to begin this practice since Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and spending my first waking hour feeling a residue of “yuckiness” from the night before was becoming a holiday tradition that I did not want to keep.



As I reached for the light and turned off my alarm clock, I noticed that both worked predictably with little effort from me. 1.6 billion people in this world live without electricity and rely on wood, dung, and agricultural waste (which cause air pollution, one of the world’s top ten causes of premature death). So I gave thanks for electricity and that I don’t ever have to even think about dung when I turn on my light.

I always check my iPhone first thing in the morning. I know it’s a little scary (but not that uncommon) – I love my iPhone. I even have nightmares about losing it. There might be an element of addiction there and life might be less stressful if we weren’t constantly connected to our telephones, but I’m grateful for my iPhone. Most people on earth live more than two hours from a telephone. Most places in the world do not have access to basic Internet, and over one-quarter of the world’s population is without postal service. I scrolled down the screen on my cell phone and noted the number of people I talked to yesterday, the one waiting voice mail, and several new email messages and gave thanks. I read a recent study about loneliness in the United States and remember feeling deep sadness at its finding — that 1/4 of Americans report that they have no one to talk to.

And then I used my bathroom. I remember being in Cambodia several years ago and needing to find a restroom on one of our drives across country. I announced my need to our guide and casually offered, “It will be fine to just stop at a gas station.” She quickly shook her head at my ignorant suggestion and explained, “Oh, no that would not be good. We will stop at a nice house and pay to use their bathroom.” We finally found a house that she thought looked suitable, knocked on the door and offered these strangers $1.00 to use their outhouse with a clean, dirt floor and a hole in the ground surrounded by wooden boards. Until my trip to this country I didn’t know that over half of the world’s population does not have toilets.

Next I start the shower and survey all the shampoos, conditioners, body soaps, body scrubs . . . and I remembered being in China just two years ago and discovering that the shower in my room was part of the bathroom – not just in the bathroom, but part of the bathroom. The first morning there I attempted to use this shower that had a spraying device (much like a car wash), wondering how I would hold it and the shampoo. I experienced something that is still painful to remember. The sprayer had a life of its own and besides whipping around my body, it soaked the entire bathroom. I didn’t use that shower again during the week. I was not surprised to learn that people in China shower far less than Americans. I was surprised, however, to learn that 1.6 million Americans do not have indoor plumbing. I give thanks for a shower enclosed by a glass door, with a shelf for products, and a shower-head that does not require anything from me.

Next, during my hour of gratitude, I turned on the water faucet (one of five in my home) to get a drink of water. For a quarter of the world’s population a glass of clean water is never an option, which is why over 2 million people die every year from diseases they get from simply drinking water. With every sip, I gave thanks.

I laced up my new running shoes (serious running shoes – Hoka’s – purchased on sale at the end of summer for $99.00 and used approximately 9.9 times since purchase) and stepped outside for my morning run/walk. As always, the sun was rising. I thought about some words a dear friend sent me via email (that I read with my laser-corrected vision on my Mac-Pro laptop, gifted to me by another friend): “The world is full of resurrections. Every night that folds us up in darkness is a death, and those of you that have been out early, and have seen the first dawn, will know it — the day rises out of the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life” (George MacDonald).

I took in the sunrise and prayed, “Thank you, for another resurrection.”

woman on rock

And then I turned on my iPhone to listen to music — music that fills me with joy, anticipation, faith, and hope. I have always been grateful for music. To think that 15 people out of every 1,000 people in the United States have a severe hearing impairment makes me grateful that I can hear the words and the melody coming from a four-inch miraculous device that contains all my favorite songs, contacts, text, emails, and Angry Birds. 

As I run/walk I contemplate the day ahead — a day off from work for me! Because I am a bit prone to workaholism, I say a prayer for the 12% of all Americans who work seven days a week, and I ask for the grace to rest.

When I finish my exercise, I jump in my Mini-Cooper (my dream car that I leased 2 1/2 years ago), and I drive to get a bagel and coffee. There’s so much that I could give thanks for that is crammed into this daily ritual. My heart overflows with gratitude as I savor every bite of a pumpkin bagel, lathered with peanut-butter. I will never forget the pictures I saw of families in Haiti in their daily ritual of making cookies from dirt, salt, and vegetable shortening. The cookies are their entire meal.

It only took the highlights from a single hour in my day to confirm that I have a lot to be grateful for. In fact, my ability to write this post and your ability to read it on a computer or phone with Internet access, confirms that we are in the top 25% richest people in the world!

During this holiday season, may our gratitude create a shelter from the hype and leave an imprint on our hearts of how incomprehensibly blessed we are and enable us to see the things that are really real – not Amazon Prime, turkey and all the fixings, or gift cards to last for a year. The reality that makes stuff, relational stress, and stretched-too-thin credit cards fade into the shadows. The Apostle John writes about the substance that remains when everything else fades:

lightindarkness“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” 1 John 3:3