We leave the swake regularly for a soup pot full of reasons, but every so often I think we leave just so we can have the fun of coming home again. Then there are the days where we stay put, firmly rooted in the coziness with Kanti providing comic relief. Whether we are coming, going, or staying, there is an underlying thankfulness. I'm not referring to the silly kind that spouts flowery prayers, chants encouraging slogans, or celebrates self-serving accomplishments but the kind that challenges you to open your eyelids even when life is in disarray around you. It's actually a choice that you can make, something little you can control and it will power your spirit and your living.
Thankfulness is top of mind this morning. It has been wandering around my brain for a few weeks prodding me to wonder how people can be thankful when things suck. When Nelson Mandela died, there was a quote that I heard on the news that tickled my thankfulness thoughts. In the clip, Mandela was talking about his years of incarceration and his words went something like this, "God used something bad and turned it to good". Around the same time I watched that newscast I was reading the story of Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery in Genesis and I came across a very similar quote. Check out Genesis 50:20 and you will see that Mandela was paraphrasing Joseph.
Regardless of who quoted it first it hung around in the cobwebs of my thoughts over several weeks. During that same window of time that the quote was haunting me, I witnessed people in my sphere bemoaning their lives. I was bemused. They hadn't been kidnapped by their own families and sold. They hadn't spent decades of their lives incarcerated unjustly. They had food, shelter, work, and families but they were morose and whiney. Maybe none of those things were exactly as they had planned or hoped but they had them nonetheless. They were walking around on two legs, heck they were driving nice vehicles. Why were they not thankful on some level?
Then I left the swake last Sunday to go to church and there I heard Sam Pivnik's story an Auschwitz survivor's story. Certainly a man who had experienced such loss and horror that I would completely understand if he had given up on life and living, eschewing thankfulness. But he was still alive in 2012 and published his story. He must have clung to some threads of thankfulness and decided to keep on living. Truth is, I can't remember how the preacher connected Sam's story to the scripture passage. Something was lost on me, or maybe I was so captured by Sam's story that it was all I needed to come away with.
So the thoughts on thankfulness and disappointments kept swirling, like the snowflakes on the swake this week. Last night as the snow fell again, we cozied up at home to watch the Shawshank Redemption. Kanti stretched out on the couch beside Greg. While she dozed Greg and I watched the movie and wonder of wonders we managed to stay awake. That's when it became clear to me. There is a quote in the movie where the main character that has been wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison says, "You have to get busy living or you have to get busy dying."
The thankfulness thing is a choice, a conscious choice, and sometimes it takes a whole lot of perseverance but if we can hang onto a thread of perseverance we are actually choosing to live. Joseph chose to live during his years in prison, as did Mandela and Sam Pivnik. We too can choose to be thankful everyday in some small way no matter how bad life seems or how disappointed we may be. Those individual, tiny, intentional choices will help us live.