Next Level Thankfulness


Giving thanks shouldn’t just be about what we are given or how things are going for us. I write this fully understanding that I have much more than I need and have many tangible things to be thankful for. We should be thankful for the good things in our lives, like steady employment, caring family, and good health. If we took those things for granted before COVID-19, we probably don’t now.


A truly thankful heart doesn’t exist just because favorable external factors are in place, though. A truly thankful heart probably appreciates beauty in nature, sees good in others, and connects with a higher purpose. I am sure there are many other additional descriptors that would apply, but I will always return to the point that living with an attitude of gratitude should not be dependent upon having things go just the way one wants them to.


I have aspired to what I will call next level thankfulness in this blog. Next level thankfulness goes beyond being thankful for the good things in our lives and even exceeds being impervious to challenges. When we are in the midst of difficulties, it is pretty tough to stop and be thankful in that moment. That is what I have been feeling this fall, though, and I have observed others displaying next level thankfulness, too.


For example, it appears to me that a very high percentage of students who have been able to return to school on site are just thankful to be there. I don’t think most people (superheroes aside) get really excited about masking up, but the vast majority have done very well with that as a condition to be in school. You could talk to our fine arts and sports participants and fans, too. Plays and concerts in the gym, virtual auditions, and limited crowds are not things we sought; but it certainly has been great to be able to have activities and events.


I have noticed next level thankfulness on the part of a lot of staff members and members of the public, too. Even when there are tough decisions, less-than-perfect solutions, and areas of dispute, people have been quick to say, “Thank you,” and recognize hard work in the face of challenges. This week I had a mom with two children stop me on the sidewalk near a school just to say thank you for what everyone is doing to make it possible for kids to attend school. I also had a teacher new to the district send a very gracious and encouraging email. On multiple occasions, someone has been expressing disagreement or questioning something, but they have also acknowledged complexities and challenges and expressed thanks for the effort. Those things don’t always happen in “normal” times; and while I don’t think I can bring myself to say I am thankful for COVID-19, I am thankful that challenges can bring out the best in people.


Our staff really is doing tremendous work and is doing it under a lot of pressure. I know it is not all about school folks, of course. I appreciate health professionals and other frontline workers so much, and I know they are fatigued mentally and physically as this pandemic wears on. I feel for small business owners in our community and across the country who keep trying to make a go of it for their community. I appreciate those focused on serving others. Everyone is tired of COVID-19, and often that gets expressed as just wanting to be done with 2020. I have seen an awful lot of good in 2020, though. It has been a year when people have gone to uncommon lengths to serve each other, and I believe it has been a year where there has been an uptick in appreciation in many ways.


I am thankful for the challenges of 2020 because they have shown us that, individually and collectively, we can do a lot more than we sometimes realize. I know that when some normalcy returns, I will be more thankful than ever for it. But I will also know that we can persevere and tackle great challenges together.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I wish you next level thankfulness!