A FEW DAYS before he was nearly washed away in the floods, our deacon threw out a handful of examples from a six-page list of things he was thankful for: “my wife and child … my family and friends … knowing how to hunt and fish …. For knowing how to plant a garden … to care for a lawn … to drive a boat … to back a trailer … to cook a meal. For having the ability to walk and run … to see the sunrise … to taste the sweetness of a freshly picked peach … to hear the roar of the ocean … to smell a gardenia’s bloom … to know Jesus Christ.”
He was challenging us to make our own lists, but my take-away was how very ordinary so many of his blessings were. I had always thought of thanksgiving as something we do for great gifts, for good health, for prayers answered. Not for simply knowing how to … back a trailer.
I’ve been trying since then to add such mundane blessings to my prayers, but they keep getting crowded out by the extraordinary. By transformational gifts that I as an individual and that we as a people have been given over these past few months.
How I learned to be thankful, even through loss and violation
I’m thinking even more about these transformational blessings as we approach our national day of Thanksgiving, when we spend too much time fixating on food and football and family squabbles and too little giving thanks. Perhaps you’ve noticed that. Perhaps that troubles you. Perhaps now would be a good time for us all to start making our own lists, so that when Thanksgiving comes, we can be prepared to … give thanks.
This year I am thankful that the floods didn’t sweep me away; in fact didn’t even come close. I am thankful that all of my friends and family survived with nothing more than the most minor of inconveniences.
I give thanks for the fact that when the floods came, we reacted with compassion, and grace. That we instinctively reached out to help our neighbors who were suffering, that we looked up from our devices and stepped outside of our self-absorbed lives and acted like we were part of a community.
After the SC flood, a week of great destruction, and greater generosity
I am thankful that at a time when our state desperately needed a leader, our governor reached within herself and found that leader, told us we would get through this and led us through it. I’m thankful that she didn’t launch into tea-partisan, libertarian, populist blather about the evils of the federal government but instead went to work with that government, and with our state government, to get the roads and bridges reopened and to get help to people who needed help. I’m thankful that she modeled servant leadership, joining her compassionate and grace-filled neighbors to personally help people clean out their flooded homes.
I am thankful for the impressive job our much-maligned Transportation Department has done getting roads and bridges back in working order.
I am thankful that after what looked initially like knee-jerk defensiveness, our new DHEC director seems to have recognized that her agency has not been doing its job protecting the public from dangerous dams — and hopeful that this recognition will inspire her to examine how well her agency is handling all the other areas where its enforcement attitude can make the difference in the public’s health and safety.
I’m thankful that the Senate didn’t confirm the governor’s professionally unqualified and temperamentally inappropriate first choice for that post.
I am thankful that our governor found her inner leader both times our state desperately needed leadership.
I give thanks for the fact that an evil gunman did not burst in on my church and massacre my priest and fellow parishioners — and me. I give thanks that I don’t have to worry that someone will shoot up my church because of the color of my skin.
I am thankful that I live in a state and a country where I can worship freely — so freely, in fact, that many people who call themselves Christians honestly believe they’re being persecuted because an overpriced coffee shop doesn’t put Santa figures on its red cups and because people greet them with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” … during Advent. Persecuted.
The war on Advent continues
I give thanks for the awesome and inspirational grace displayed by the families of the Emanuel nine, which transformed the hearts of so many South Carolinians and turned tragedy into a great coming together for people of faith. I pray that I could display a mustard seed’s worth of their faith if my life were torn by even a mustard seed’s worth of the tragedy that theirs were.
I am thankful that our lawmakers finally put the Confederate flag behind us, and did so not because they had to but because they, and the people they represent, realized how much pain that symbol caused so many of our neighbors.
This Confederate flag debate is strikingly different from the ones before
Honestly, I’m not sure I ever believed that the Legislature would move that flag — much less do it in a way that brought us together rather than tearing us apart. So I am thankful that I failed to consider the power of grace — and even more thankful that it was given to us over and over again.
And even though it’s been more than 30 years since I did it and I can’t imagine why I would ever need to do it again, I’m thankful that I can back a trailer.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at email@example.com or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.