It’s finally November; a month typically associated with giving sacrificially and being thankful for your blessings.
At least, that’s what November is supposed to be about. But these days, I feel like it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to reflect on what I’m thankful for in this world.
Maybe it’s because I’m keenly aware of all the pain and sadness that’s going on in the world. As a journalist, I can’t help but pay attention.
When I turn on the news at night, or open up Facebook and Twitter, or read the breaking news notifications that seem to constantly ping on my phone these days, the reality of how bad this world has genuinely gotten comes fully into focus.
Immigrant children separated from their families at the border; homeless individuals forced to beg on the streets and sleep stretched out on benches during cold, harsh nights; not enough food to feed all the hungry mouths and empty bellies; folks who can’t afford to visit a doctor because of rising health care costs; violent and vulgar rhetoric constantly streaming from a place historically revered in American society as an honorable institution. If you take the time to stop and think about all the things wrong with the world today, you run the risk of spiraling into a deep, dark and depressing place.
Recently, I was able to get away from it all for a weekend camping trip at one of my favorite places in The Natural State: The Buffalo National River in the majestic Ozark Mountains. My wife and I, along with our pup, spent some time in nature, truly roughing it in a small, 4-person tent, cut off from running water, electricity and any trace of a decent cellphone signal.
And it was wonderful.
Cut off from texting, calling, tweeting, posting, emailing, and – most importantly – the 24-hour news cycle, I was forced to retreat into the quiet of nature and my personal thoughts.
It was the perfect environment for reflection; not just on the things that make this world tough but the things that make it beautiful, as well.
I can tell you this, there’s no better place to think about the elegance and majesty of God’s handiwork than when you’re sitting in an 8-foot by 9-foot tent with only a thin layer of polyester separating you from the cold chill of an autumn thunderstorm and the flooded ground outside, slowly creeping its way up to your tent.
And I did reflect. I reflected on the things I’ve been blessed with so far: a great life, married to a beautiful woman who cares for me and helps me to navigate my way out when I fall into the trap of dark thoughts. A fantastic job that allows me to tell the wonderful stories of the good people who belong to the United Methodist Church in Arkansas. My amazing support group of family and friends that are there when I need to vent about something that’s bothering me or share the joy of something that’s making me laugh that day.
And a God that cared enough about me – a person who’s just a minor hiccup in the timeline of creation – to create an escape plan from the sin and hurt of this world through the sacrifice of his Son more than 2,000 years ago.
So, as we move into November and everything that comes with this season of thankfulness and giving, remember that no matter how bad the world gets, there’s always a reason to be thankful.
There are countless ways you can learn to give back to others who may not be feeling so thankful about their life situation right now, like volunteering at food pantries or donating clothing and other supplies to shelters.
And if you need to, take a page from my book and learn to get away from the distractions of this world that seek to cause you stress. You’ll be glad you did.