When giving thanks is not enough

This morning was the first cold morning of fall, the first time this season I switched on the seat heater in my car on the way to work. As I drove through dark streets that not even a month ago were touched by rosy sunrise at this same time of day, I thought about writing that sentence: “Today is the first day this fall that I switched on the seat heater in my car.” I have a Subaru, which is a totally cool car to have when you live in the mountains where it snows, and my car makes me feel lucky. I luxuriate in knowing that I will be able to get to and from work even when the roads get wintry and messy; I bask in a seat that can heat itself for my comfort.

But I can’t help feeling guilty when I think of the desperate waves of refugees worldwide, or even of those struggling in my own town. There are so many people with no homes, no jobs, no cars, no security, while I am able to heat up my backside and count my blessings. Our county recently made the national news with Armageddon-like mudslides that erupted onto the highway and inundated hundreds of cars and trucks in minutes, that frightened and stranded motorists and ruined vehicles, that closed the roads in and out of the area for days. But my family was unhurt. My family was safe. By the grace of God we lead a charmed life.

Advertisement

“If the only prayer you ever said was thank you,” said Meister Eckhart, “that would be enough.” But I know that’s not enough. As grateful as I am for the health and well being of my family, as thankful as I am for the abundant blessings of my life, I know I have more to do. More to pray about. More to ponder. More to give. More to love. As I get older, I really do find God in all things, even the unpleasant things. I find I am aware of God’s love and presence like I am aware of air, as something unseen but steady, and essential to life.

Of course, it’s easy to be thankful when God is there in the smallest, inconsequential things, as well as in the life-altering, hugely moving things. As I drove on towards work, as the morning light appeared on the horizon like a crack in an egg, I pictured my cool car swept away in a mudslide, my house obliterated, my job lost, my family harmed, my faith shaken, my security gone, and I wondered if I would still feel grateful, if I would still sense God in those dreadful, harrowing things. I thought about the story of Job. My seat was so warm. My heart was so full. For the moment, this perfectly normal day felt like enough.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Carolann Cirbee
2 years 5 months ago
Amen, sister! Though my Dodge Journey doesn't have a heated seat, my life is so filled with riches and graces that I , too, search for adequate ways to say "thank you". Lately, this has led me to look more gently at the people who cross my path. Looking at everyone more deeply - friends, relatives, colleagues, people in stores, banks, service stations, theaters, libraries, wherever - has helped me to see their needs, hopes, and dreams. It's a short hop from seeing them and exchanging friendly conversation to praying for them, and hoping that the generosity that God has poured out on me may begin to flow outward from me to everyone whose life I touch. It doesn't make up for mudslides, human cruelty, or horrific diseases, but it's something I can give, and it's a place to start.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Matthew MacFadyen (Henry Wilcox) Hayley Atwell (Margaret Schlegel) in 'Howards End’
E. M. Forster's masterpiece is a state-of-the-nation thesis in the guise of a real estate inheritance plot.
Rob Weinert-KendtApril 19, 2018
A beading session at Loom Chicago. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The report found that Catholic initiatives addressing the refugee crisis are marked by their commitment to a range of Catholic social teaching, including respect for life, a commitment to the common good, care for the earth and promoting the dignity of work.
Immigrants just released from detention via a U.S. immigration policy known as "catch and release" stand at a bus station April 11 before being taken to the Catholic Charities relief center in McAllen, Texas. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters)
The Legal Orientation Program, which President George W. Bush put into place in 2003, helps detained immigrants know their rights and legal options.
J.D. Long-GarcíaApril 19, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron listens to speeches at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on April 17. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
President Emmanuel Macron scandalized secularists by praising Catholic contributions to French public life, but he has yet to work toward religious liberty.
Pascal-Emmanuel GobryApril 18, 2018