Today on the COMPASS blog we continue our space of reflections related to “An Attitude of Gratitude” and Thanksgiving. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Allison Siburg. Allison is a theologically trained millennial, and also happily married to Timothy.
Now before you bail on this blog post by this 20-something that clearly doesn’t have it all together, I should share that I didn’t hack the COMPASS blog – I was asked by the editor and curator (and husband of mine) of this beautiful blog to contribute and I said “Yes!”
Timothy asked me the question, “Is it easy or hard to be grateful?” For me, it depends. If I’m in a good place mentally, I am awesome at being grateful. When I focus my thoughts on my unique ethnic makeup, economic status, personal and professional networks – with a mindset that they are all gifts from which to serve, and not of which to extort or take advantage I find myself incredibly grateful to God for my life and well-being.
But if I’m in a bad place, being grateful is difficult. In those bad places, when my thoughts are sprinkled with anxiety and worry, it’s hard to look past myself. My mind turns toward obsessing with planning, focusing on inflated consequences of what’s wrong, or mapping out how to avoid this, them or that thing I know I’ll cross paths with tomorrow, next week, or over the holidays.
I’m pretty proud of our family’s budget and our commitment to talking about it once a month over Saturday morning pancakes. That same budget allows me to map out coupons and deals for grocery shopping and plan dinners for a week at a time (breakfast and lunch, you’re on your own with sandwich and box meal staples). However, the weekly rhythm can get a little stale, and I find myself complaining about the search for another set of coupons that supply another set of recipes for another set of meals. It becomes a “have to” instead of a “get to.”
Mental models from our past can get in the way of expressing gratitude as well. When you’re a kid and your older relatives say “Eat your food, there are starving children in Africa,” you do your best to join the “clean plate club” (I’m almost a card-carrying member). But perhaps this well-intentioned comment leaves a stench of guilt that is difficult to shake over the years, so much so that it seeps deep into our working definition of gratitude. Perhaps in the case of helping a neighbor across the world in the spirit of gratitude, the ends justify the means. But I have a feeling we expect more from ourselves than a tight, packaged end, and we expect from ourselves integrity expressed in the ends as well as the means. I know I do.
In moments of un-gratefulness influenced by either past or present, I have to snap myself out of it. I have to pivot from having an awful attitude to an attitude of gratefulness – a gratefulness motivated not by guilt but by love. Love from God, love from neighbor, love from my closest ones. Love is the root of my gratitude. Without love, I don’t realize that our mounting student loans are little compared to the challenge a single mom and her child faces when homelessness is a better option than facing domestic abuse. Without love, I don’t see the struggling musician in front of me when we go to a free-dinner community event for our apartment complex. Without love, I don’t see the custodian with Asperger’s Syndrome who is having more fun than I am at an evening community gathering at church. Love is the root of my gratitude.
It’s difficult to be grateful when I’m in my head and living in the future—or the past—instead of in the present. But when I look around me at what I have and what we, (my family, the church and larger community) collectively have as a community, I realize there are more reasons than I can count to be grateful.
Now it’s your turn. Is it easy or difficult for you to be grateful?
About the Author: Allison has served congregations in areas related to curriculum development, adult and young adult faith formation, and helping people learn about their strengths and be able to articulate their own faith stories. Allison currently serves as a facilitator for brightpeak, a division of Thrivent. She holds a MA in Systematic Theology (Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN) and a BA in Religion and Women’s and Gender Studies (Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA). She currently resides in St. Paul, MN with her husband Timothy. She blogs regularly and can be followed there as well as on Twitter.
Image Credit: Too many Tabs
This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.