What should we be thankful for? I am thankful for many things, but I don’t think I should be. Let me explain.
I am thankful for the small chance that I even exist at all, the small chance that I was born in a developed country with many opportunities for education and work choices, the small chance that I was born in the current time period with the opportunities and privileges I have as a white woman in America. I am thankful for the ability to type out my thoughts on a computer and publish them with almost no effort compared to historical methods of sharing words and thoughts.
I am thankful that I have a home and a place to sleep, that I don’t worry about whether I will have access in the future to food and water, that I don’t worry about keeping warm or staying cool, and that I feel safe in my home, in my neighborhood, and most places in my city. I am thankful that I can travel around my city and country with relative ease. I am thankful that I am healthy and that if I do get sick or injured I will have immediate access to great medical care. I am thankful that most of my family can also be thankful for these things.
This year I am also grateful for my 6 month old daughter, and that she was born into similar conditions of privilege and opportunity. I don’t believe that I am so special that a creator chose to bring me into these specific conditions, versus billions of other people in the world today and also in history. I believe that I exist purely by chance, and that makes me even more thankful to be here.
It’s easy to sit here at my computer and list off the many things I am thankful for – but I don’t agree that anyone ‘should’ be thankful. ‘Should’ indicates an obligation, duty, or expectation. Obligation to whom? Whose expectation? Who determines what falls in the ‘should’ and ‘should not’ categories? I don’t think that people need someone else to determine their obligation or duty in life, and I don’t think any authority figure needs that type of power and control. That’s what the term ‘Freethinker’ really means. I think, decide, and act for myself, and I don’t tell you how you should think, decide, and act. Specific limitations to this will apply, but certainly not in the area of a person’s attitude.
I choose to have a positive attitude because it makes me happy. I could choose to dwell on things that could be better, but I don’t. That doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to or ignore suffering and injustice – in fact, reminding myself to be thankful helps me remain aware that my situation is not the norm. Because of my privileged beginning, as well as hard work on my part to take advantage of the opportunities I received, I now have many resources at my disposal that I use to help others who were not as lucky as I was.
Instead of centering my thoughts the negative, I choose to think positively about myself and the world, remain alert for opportunities to improve (both myself and my surroundings), and support causes and organizations that work to alleviate suffering and injustice. I hope that by doing so, I will help empower others to improve themselves and their communities.