When I went off to college in 2007, I experienced the same sense of liberating happiness that a lot of freshmen get. A freshness of place, a new kind of freedom.

But I also caught another common revelation: that I had taken so many things for granted.

I didn’t know to be thankful for home until I moved out. Didn’t appreciate the amazing gift of a good family until I was apart from it and on my own. Never gave proper thanks for my mom’s mashed potatoes until I tried to make some of my own.

This is often the way it goes. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The line seems so axiomatically true as to be an intrinsic part of the human condition.

At least in America, where we have so much to be grateful for, we don’t recognize how much gratitude is due. Sure, in an academic sense we know we’re well off. We know statistics and mantras about quality of life, income, material possessions and opportunity. We know that many of us live with unique privilege.

But while such blessings should breed gratitude, they so often breed entitlement. (Or, maybe just as bad, oblivious passivity.)

It’s too bad that we have to lose something — or, just as often, see someone else who’s lost it — to even notice that the thing we thought was ours was only a gift, only on loan, only temporary.

I didn’t appreciate my sight until I saw someone who was blind.

Rarely thanked God for my ability to read and write until I met a boy who couldn’t do either.

Sometimes it takes walking into a hospital or a prison to realize that your health and freedom were never guaranteed.

We should be more thankful for the things we have. I know I should be.

And not just material things — shelter, clothes, food, oxygen, technology — but more intangible, hard-to-measure things, too: an ability to reason, to feel emotion, to relate, to share, to give and receive, to think and believe, to speak or not speak.

And beyond being grateful for all good things — an ability that is itself a blessing, but one we seldom think on — we can even be grateful in the tough times. Because of what they teach us. What they make us. Where they lead us. Because God considered us worthy and able to face trials.

This is getting awfully close to preaching, so I’ll be done. Except to say thanks for everything, and to quote the Buddha:

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us be thankful.

And a Christian addendum: And if we died, we are looking God in the face, so let us be thankful.

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson


  1. So true. So wise. Now I need to be thankful to you for sharing your wisdom.


  2. Your last two posts reminded me of this poem with its thankfulness for small things–even that which meets us between first waking and breakfast.

    Song of Praises by Robert Siegel

    for the gray nudge of dawn at the window
    for the chill that hangs around the bed and slips
    its cold tongue under the covers
    for the cat that walks over my face purring murderously
    for the warmth of the hip next to mine and sweet lethargy
    for the cranking up of the will until it turns me out of bed
    for the robe’s caress along arm and neck
    for the welcome of hot water, the dissolving of
    the night’s stiff mask in the warm washcloth
    for the light along the while porcelain sink
    for the toothbrush’s savory invasion of the tomb of the mouth
    and resurrection of the breath
    for the warm lather and the clean scrape of the razor
    and the skin smooth and pink that emerges
    for the steam of the shower, the apprehensive shiver and then
    its warm enfolding of the shoulders
    its falling on the head like grace
    its anointing of the whole body
    and the soap’s smooth absolution
    for the rough nap of the towel and its message to each skin cell
    for the hairbrush’s pulling and pulling,
    waking the root of each hair
    for the reassuring snap of elastic
    for the hug of the belt that pulls all together

    for the smell of coffee rising up the stairs announcing paradise
    for the glass of golden juice in which light is condensed
    and the grapefruit’s sweet flesh

    for the eggs like two peaks over which the sun rises
    and the jam for which the strawberries of summer have
    saved themselves

    for the light whose long shaft lifts the kitchen
    into the realms of day
    for Mozart elegantly measuring out the gazebos
    of heaven on the radio
    and for her face, for whom the kettle sings, the coffee percs,
    and all the yellow birds in the wallpaper spread their wings.

    (Siegel, A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, 2006)


    1. You reminded me of e.e. cummings’
      i thank you God for this most amazing
      by E. E. Cummings

      i thank You God for this most amazing
      day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
      and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
      wich is natural which is infinite which is yes
      (i who have died am alive again today,
      and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
      day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
      great happening illimitably earth)
      how should tasting touching hearing seeing
      breathing any-lifted from the no
      of all nothing-human merely being
      doubt unimaginable You?
      (now the ears of my ears awake and
      now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


      1. Griffin Paul Jackson November 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm

        E.E. Cummings always seems to have something strangely fitting to say. Thank you for this reminder.

    2. Griffin Paul Jackson November 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      That is a very cool poem. Also, “A Pentecost of Finches” is a really sweet title. You’ve piqued my interest.


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