Continuing Thanksgiving (Scholar’s Compass)

Tamarie Macon shares some post-Thanksgiving (the holiday) thoughts on thanksgiving, the hopefully ongoing practice in our lives. To read other posts by Tamarie, click here


Scripture

“Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world.” John 14:23 (The Message)

Reflection

Practicing gratitude has become popular these days. At least it’s widely embraced to say that’s what you do. 

There are so many guides and practices and quick tips online. One that I started this year was to identify three things I am grateful for at the end of each day. Most of the time, I journal these lists by myself. 

A few months ago, when I moved from living alone to living with family, I try to say what I’m grateful for out loud with someone. The Word says, “Be thankful and say so.” Say it out loud with a loved one, alternating as the other party is willing. Memory research shows that when we engage more senses when doing something, we are more likely to remember it. So say it, act it out, reimagine it, whatever you can think of. Work to expand those moments of gratitude in your mind.

Now I realize that naming three things I’m thankful for at end of day is not enough. I need to be aware throughout the day. And I’m beginning to create lists of things that I can refer back to about what I’m thankful for regarding where I am – literally. In other words, what I am grateful for geographically. And where I am metaphorically: professionally, relationally, psychologically, spiritually. 

Because in the midst of these major life transitions, I’ve realized my heart easily finds things to complain about. I thought if I moved away from these aspects of my environment that I didn’t care for, then I wouldn’t complain anymore. Instead, if it’s not X, then it’s Y, Z, and ABC. Such an obvious pattern now in retrospect. Perhaps you find that in yourself too? Might you, Scholar, more so recognize the positive angle of this trait: always able to offer criticism to improve something, even an already good thing?

I recognize I’m much more apt to let things go and not sweat the small stuff when 1) I’m grateful, and 2) when I think things are temporary. And really, everything is temporary – it’s just what’s the timescale of temporary. It’s important to reflect on and recognize the natural rhythms of your heart – where do your heart, mind, thoughts naturally go? what helps redirect that natural flow toward thanksgiving? – such insights help us to live grateful lives.

Now I want to end with what’s been especially salient to me lately. Let’s talk about the poor. (and if you think you are not “rich” in this world, check out this calculator: https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/how-rich-am-i/). Having a preferential option for the poor, casting one’s lot with the marginalized – it’s not just about downward comparison. There is something in the human experience of connecting with another person created in the same image you are, sharing joy, learning more about another person’s journey on this earth. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith?” (James 2:5, NIV). The poor have something we need. It’s a shift that’s hard to come by through study alone. It’s a shift that’s hard to come by alone.

Prayer

Our gracious Father, let us live lives of gratitude, gratitude that is felt, spoken, overflowing. In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Questions

  1. What are the natural rhythms of your heart vis a vis thankfulness?
  2. How can you personalize the practice of gratitude so that it moves you to do His will [I Thess. 5:18], knowing that doing His will is always to His glory and for our good?
  3. How can your practice of gratitude become grace-filled and community-building?
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Tamarie Macon

Tamarie Macon is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University. She studies Black fathers’ parenting and how they promote the adaptive emotional development of their young children. She also teaches courses in Applied Psychology. She completed her PhD in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan. She previously studied at Rutgers University and worked on Capitol Hill.

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