Remembering Gratitude after Tragedy

Thanksgiving by Ed Schipul (CC BY-SA)

Thanksgiving by Ed Schipul (CC BY-SA)

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each moment of loss . . . contains within it the possibility of a new life. . . . a depth of empathy, a quivering sensitivity to the world around you, and the unexpected blessing of gratitude for what remains.
—Christina Baker Kline
“Dear old world”, she murmured, “you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” —L.M. Montgomery


I was glued to the screen the awful Friday evening that Paris was attacked. Stricken and waiting as news trickled in, Thanksgiving was the last thing on my mind. Still shaken in the days that followed, I dismissed all thoughts of cooking and shopping—in the wake of brutal violence, who cares about kitsch and cranberry sauce?

But when the shock subsided, sorrow set in and whispered, How lucky you are to be alive. Also, It’s important to make merry while you can.

And that seemed right.

As we mourn the deaths of 130 people and fear continuing violence, Thanksgiving and the coming winter holidays aren’t frivolous. They’re valuable opportunities to savor the gifts we often take for granted, including laughter with loved ones, good food, puppy kisses, and small victories. After the devastation in Paris, humanity’s outpouring of sympathy has also been a gift.

Widespread expressions of support remind us that hatred and terrorism are still exceptional. That most of us want good things for one another, and there’s power in numbers. That people around the world share life-affirming values, whatever they may be celebrating this season. Such encouragement is an important step toward healing, and one more thing I’m grateful for.

As you celebrate this holiday season with family and friends, remember that life offers no guarantees. Be grateful for the gifts you enjoy, including a world full of mostly kindred spirits. As messy and imperfect as it all is, it’s ours, here and now.



  1. Benjamin Abraham

    Grateful indeed. In today’s world, more people live lives with improved health, food, shelter, and security and above all, hope.

    While there is certainly great need for improvement, we still have much to be thankful for.

    I am thankful for you.

  2. What a heart-felt message and at an especially appropriate time. There is so much to be grateful for, and sometimes we get caught up in the minutia of our routines, and forget to step back and savor all that we have in life. I am grateful for my loving family, my dear friends, opportunities share good times with loved ones, for my health, and for all the good-hearted people in the world … as you so beautifully said: … who “share life-affirming values.”

What do you think?