Zak of All Trades: A return to an attitude of gratitude

Last year, some readers may recall, I did a condensed version of 30 Days of Thankfulness by listing 30 things that I was thankful for, all in one neat, packaged, organized column. I had all intentions of doing the same this year.

Here's the problem, though: Thanksgiving is better than two weeks in my past, and I'm still struggling to get into the "thankful" mood.

Please, don't get me wrong, there's plenty to be thankful for (including a rapidly approaching visit from family that'll bring four of my favorite people into the area for Christmas).

But even knowing the long list of things that I should be thankful for, I really struggled this year to fall into the calming sense of thankfulness that typically comes with the holiday season for me.

Now, there are all sorts of outside factors that affect this mood of
thankfulness — far too many to list here, ranging from the cold weather bumming me out to many personal situations sucking the joy right out of me.

But none of those factors can take away the sense of gratitude that lies deeper within, and after about a month-and-a-half of moping, maybe it's time to embrace some of the thankfulness again.

Now, I'm not saying that this will be a complete 180-degree turn, but it can't hurt to focus a little bit more on the thankful and a little bit less on the moping.

Moping has become a bit of an acceptable trend in our society today, I think, and a part of me feels like that's fueled by social media. (See my future column about unplugging from these outlets for more!)

If you're involved in a conversation with someone, there's no way on God's green Earth you're going to let him sit around and mope all day every day, but then you "become friends" with them on Facebook or something like it, and you put the ball fully into their hands.

If your "Friend A" wants to post a billion things he's unthankful for on his wall, you can't do a darn thing to stop him. Sure, you can choose not to view them by unfriending him, or you can even go the sneaky route and not view his feed on your space anymore.

But the moping continues because we have a place to mope where nobody can stop us from moping!

We've all seen such posts — from sad and depressed song lyrics (I'm
guilty of this one) to flat out complaining and being obnoxious — and we all wish other people would stop moping.

Now, some folks really need help, and in a way, I suppose these social media outlets have probably provided an avenue for that help that those folks wouldn't have received elsewhere.

But my bet would be that a vast majority of the standard mopers would fall into the category of those who are offered help but would rather not take it.

For some, it's better to have something to mope about.

All that aside, I feel like I've been a bit more of a mope lately than I have a thankful person, and so, with that in mind (and the joy of a Canadian family visit tugging on the strings of my heart), I felt like it might not be too late to tell you some of the things I'm thankful for this year.

After all, Thanksgiving's great, in that it gives us a reminder to be thankful for the many blessings that we have. But who wants to associate with someone who's only thankful one day out of the year?

• This year, I've been especially thankful for my church family. From the "Back Pew Boys" I sit with each and every week to my new Sunday School class to our new pastor, it's been a year filled with many blessings from my place of worship.

Church has always been the place I've gone to have my cup filled, and after what felt like a long layoff in my personal walk, this year has been quite fulfilling there. And that, I know, is in large part thanks to my church family.

• This year, I've been especially thankful for family to get me through the rough times. There have been rough times, and the family that's surrounded me to help me through it — well, I couldn't have done it without them.

• This year, I've felt especially thankful for the little things that I take for granted so often. Moving into my own house this year opened my eyes to so many of the things that I had taken for granted for so long.

I've lived "on my own" before, but never have I been in my own place.

This year, that happened, and it's taught me a lot about how many of those things — groceries and heat and wireless Internet, oh my! — were things I took for granted all along.

Turns out, they all cost money, and you have to be careful to budget to keep them. But, just being in a position to have to budget is a blessing in itself — and one I'm thankful for this year.

• This year, I've felt especially thankful for ... well ... for not enough things. Like I said, last year's list was long and came together pretty easily, but this year, my attitude hasn't always been in the right place.

So, while I'm taking some time to be thankful here, I'm also hoping that this is the beginning of the new season of thankfulness in my life.

Giving thanks is about much more than just one day, and I've always been aware of that.

But giving thanks is also a deliberate choice — and being in an attitude of gratitude (see what I did with the rhyme game there?) feels like a much better place to be than the Mope Motel.

Bad things happen, and that stinks. Some days, we won't even feel like getting out of bed. In those times, for me at least, I know that it's easy to say, "There's nothing to be thankful for, so why should I try?"
But I know that's not true.

And if, instead of rolling back over and moping some more, I take a stand with an attitude of gratitude, I begin to realize that the very reason it's worth getting up to face another day is that I have so much to be thankful for.

The list of three or four things I posted above are a nice start, but my list expands far beyond them. And hopefully, with the help of this
column, I'll start to open my eyes to the things worth being thankful for again.

Won't you join me?

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit, and he has been outside of the thankfulness trend for too long.