In the midst of times of uncertainty it is important to reflect on how gratefulness might help calm us, reduce our fears, and make our expectations more realistic. Gratefulness can also open us to greater kindness and fuel action grounded in our deep intentions. It is not, however, a panacea. Reflecting on gratefulness may not cure or solve our anxieties or concerns, but it can foster connection, charity, and well-being. Gratitude cannot save us from sickness or suffering, but it can change how we experience sickness, and it may change our relationship to suffering. So, what might this mean as we respond to the wide variety of concerns we have about the coronavirus? Here are some possibilities:
• Reflect on Goodness — We can reflect with gratitude on the sacrifices of front-line workers and all those who are self-quarantining. We can be grateful for the ability to adjust our habits and be open to the needs of each day and each new experience of life. We can notice the many ways we have been able to re-orient our attention toward how others are caring for their fellow human beings around the globe.
• Stay Connected — Even if steering clear of public events or adjusting to planned events that have been canceled, it is possible that our present circumstances are giving us an opportunity to connect by phone, text or email with family, friends, and neighbors to see how they’re doing. Let’s take some time to notice how it feels to reflect (with gratitude) on the relationships in our lives and letting people know we care about them.
• Be Generous — We can use this time to extend compassion (in a new way) to those whose lives are touched most by this crisis. We can recognize that people’s health and livelihoods are in jeopardy and nervous systems are taxed. We can try being more patient, taking a deep breath before responding, and offering smiles and gratitude more freely.
• See the Privileges of the Ordinary — In the midst of a focus on how much is being lost, we can keep noticing all the blessings that remain. We can allow ourselves to appreciate and be in awe of what is available to us: phones, electricity, showers, the beauty and resilience of the natural world, all the parts of the body that still work, the services and systems that serve our ability to function, and so much more.
• Commit to What Sustains Us — We can allow ourselves to stay grounded in the things that preserve our integrity and reinforce the beliefs that help us maintain faith and hope in difficult times. We can improve on or increase the rituals, traditions, reminders, and practices that help us find God and find calm in the midst of any storm.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” Psalm 27,1