Radical Gratitude & Giving Thanks

by James Florence

“Radical gratitude is about cultivating the ability to hold a paradox. We can both feel the deep pain of grief, loss, and tragedy and be grateful for the ways in which such experiences crack us open, shatter the illusions of the ego, and wake us up to the truth of being.” —Lissa Rankin, M.D.

It’s November and we’re thinking about gratitude, even more so than usual this time of year. In the last few months, we witnessed a seemingly endless series of natural disasters, from hurricanes and earthquakes to devastating fires right here in the Bay Area. Recovery will take time, patience and resources. It’s all hands on deck for those who have been immediately affected by disaster and those on the periphery who want to help. This Thanksgiving, it’s time to practice radical gratitude: that which deflects ego and helps us all work together to (re)build the communities we love.

Our Call Center Manager Brandon Taylor’s home (and cats!) were spared in the fires, but he lost a barn, trees and fences. Worst of all, many of his neighbors lost everything. Here’s what he has to say about gratitude this year:

“I was just speaking to my son about gratitude last night. I suggested that perhaps gratitude could be a valuable alternative paradigm to the one of resentment that seems to predominate our community. I told my six-year-old that we live in a time when we’re constantly exposed to the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves, or those who’ve had the world at their feet snapped away by a wave, a bomb, a fire, or a rampant storm. As they plummet into chaos or flee for refuge, we are summoned to answer just how to respond to the millions reaching out for our regard. If we have our own fortunes intact, just one glimpse of others’ suffering can, if we allow it, generate a deep moral questioning of how we should respond. A common refrain is that we should be grateful for what we have. But for gratitude to be an effective and moral response, we need to embrace it as more than something that makes us feel good or reminds us of how good we have it. The most difficult times teach us the most about others and ourselves, and gratitude can ground us and keep us connected to those around us.

This year, I suggest going out into your community and trying to make a positive impact. Volunteer, invite someone over who may not have family to be with, or make someone smile or laugh. The smallest things make the biggest differences this year. Happy Holidays!”