I teach at my campus tomorrow. I decided on the topic of “gratitude” and “telling each other what good we experience”. To make it interesting, I made a short Video of “Good News” from our local seminary. I made a simple stop-motion intro, asked people to send in their stories, some students played the news anchor and weather correspondent, and I spent hours in front of the computer to edit all of it. The result isn’t perfect but I think it has its own charm :)
(It’s in German. Summary of the headlines: the beauty of nature – food! – my art show at seminary – local farmer supplies our school with “organic” eggs – renovation of the party basement – 3 girls in quarantine, neighbors play social distanced music with them – women in Uganda turn plastic trash into washable mattress covers for hospitals)
But why “Good News”? We obviously live in a difficult time right now. Politics and the world economy are at unrest, Germany is in a light-lockdown, my seminary classes are all online, we are limiting direct social contacts to a minimum. And yet, here I am talking about gratitude and good news. Why? I’d put it in the following sentence: “The way you look backwards is the way you look forward.” No matter how tragic things are or were, there are things that were good. But if you look back and fail to see those things, you then think “I have an empty tank.”. You feel as if nobody ever did anything good, as if you have nothing, you become paralyzed and bitter. And if you believe that you’re empty, you will move forwards “empty”. You won’t be able to invest in what’s good, appreciate beauty, practical work towards improvement becomes difficult. Because the way you look back is the way you look forwards. Gratitude shifts that spiral: When you are grateful, you realize you have “something” to be grateful for. You realize you’re not alone, because you have someone/something to be grateful to (you don’t say “thanks, universe”, you say “thank you” to a person who reached out to you.) You recognize your tank is “full”, or at least fuller, and so you move on fuller.
But if we keep that gratitude attitude private and unknown, people won’t know what good is going on. So, it’s also important to share your story of that good news with each other. Christians call this sharing “testimony”, and it’s not limited to life-changing events. If we believe that God is the source of life and we are in relationship to him, then we can also thank him for simple things. And when we share with each other those things, we start to see the good things more, and the community is stronger. You get stronger, but even if you don’t feel like you need the encouragement, someone else may need your story to encourage them.
As a Christian, I know that I sometimes simply am “empty”, even with the best grateful mindset. But that’s ok because I believe that Jesus Christ gives “life to the full” (The Bible, John 10,10). This doesn’t make my life easier by changing the situation. But it does make it easier because I am running on a fuller tank. And that’s what leads me to be grateful and encouraged.
So, what are you grateful for? Maybe write 3 of those things down each day, in a journal or on sticky notes. Or, set an alarm on your phone, and each time you hear it, think of what you are grateful for. And maybe even try to share with a friend what good things you have experienced.