Every now and then, I am overcome with gratitude for little things that bring a rush of happiness that far surpasses their cost.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I’ve been on grocery duty. Every Saturday morning, armed with a face mask, an ink pen, and a list of items that has been growing all week, I risk my life to bring food to the family. (Well, it’s probably not that big a risk, but I confess the sense of adventure adds a bit of enjoyment to the routine.) So there I am, list in hand, perusing the produce section, and I see pineapples on sale, two for $5. They’re two shelves away from bananas that cost pennies, not dollars each. Across the aisle are delicious oranges. Later this summer, we’ll scoop out the luscious red insides of the watermelon.
What extraordinary times we live in—with fruits from all across the world available to us at such affordable prices!
When was the last time you sunk your teeth into a peach and felt like falling on your face in worship before the Giver of all good things? Or wanted to extend thanks to all the people (hundreds likely, perhaps thousands) who made it possible for that fruit to go from a field to your fridge?
Extraordinary Every Morning
A. J. Jacobs in his book Thanks a Thousand shows he hasn’t lost his sense of wonder at the extraordinary “little” things we so easily take for granted.
“It’s a Tuesday morning, and I’m in the presence of one of the most mind-boggling accomplishments in human history. This marvel I see before me is the result of thousands of human beings collaborating across dozens of countries. It took the combined labor of artists, chemists, politicians, mechanics, biologists, miners, packages, smugglers, and goatherds. It required airplanes, boats, trucks, motorcycles, vans, pallets, and shoulders. It needed hundreds of materials—steel, wood, nitrogen, rubber, silicon, ultraviolet light, explosives, and bat guano. It relied upon ancient wisdom and space-age technology, freezing temperatures and scorching heat, high mountains and deep water. It is my morning cup of coffee.”
The book chronicles A. J.’s journey of seeking to thank every single person who made possible his cup of coffee.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but I assume my cup of Earl Grey in the morning requires similar feats of innovation and collaboration. It’s astonishing how much satisfaction I receive from a tea bag steeped in a mug of hot water.
Sit down with that cup and open your Bible. Now consider the extraordinary fact that you have the very Word of God at your fingertips: a library of 66 books, including more than 700,000 words and millions of individual characters—all requiring an unfathomable amount of time and attention from teams of people who proof every line of the text—expertly designed to fit onto thinner-than-normal paper, within a single volume, wrapped with a goatskin cover.
What would Jerome say if you gave him your Bible? Or Augustine? And how would they respond if you told them you could buy a Bible at the same place you get all these fruits for a price less than the two cups of the coffee you just drank, made possible by a supply line that extends around the world?
Best Things Are Free
I’m sitting outside on my patio as I write this. In quarantine. With the sun shining. Birds singing. Breeze blowing. I didn’t pay a penny for the sunshine today. I don’t have a subscription to a streaming service that gives me avian ambiance. I’m not paying for a fan to gently blow the fresh, spring air onto my skin. The sun today costs less than my extraordinarily affordable cup of tea.
It’s a gift, in fact. As is everything else.
Thankful in the Hard Times
So here we are, in difficult times, for sure. Loved ones at risk of catching a life-threatening illness. Salary reductions. Job losses. Isolation and loneliness. Fear and anxiety. What will the future hold?
It may seem insensitive to say we should look for reasons to be grateful during such a season. Trevin, I’m just trying to survive! I agree with my friend, Samuel James, who believes it is appropriate, even necessary, to mourn what we’ve lost during this season (from church to school to other events with family and friends that make life full). Still, our grief can and should be mixed with gratitude. We may or may not survive, but we certainly won’t thrive unless we chase away some of our discouragement with thanksgiving.
When we think about the marvels of God’s creation, and the many people who are putting themselves at risk to keep essential services flowing, and the heroes in health care who are literally face to face with this virus, how can we not be grateful?
Without gratitude, the soul shrivels. Our sense of self-importance rises, and our acknowledgment of how much we owe others falls.
Without gratitude, daily irritations overcome our hearts, blinding us from the gifts of God and the contributions of other people that fill our lives every single day.
Without gratitude, our minds will flit from worry to worry, racing in circles as we focus on what we have lost, instead of rejoicing over what we still have.
Without gratitude, we are perennially distracted, unable or unwilling to notice and appreciate the gifts of God.
As Chesterton wrote:
The aim of life is appreciation. There is no sense in not appreciating things; and, there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.
Grief is good. Lament is appropriate. But gratitude-infused grief and hopeful lament—that’s even better. So, think twice next time you pour that cup of coffee, or slice that delicious pineapple, or open that God-breathed Book on your desk. And give God thanks. He sees you. He loves you. And every good and perfect gift comes from him.