This article was originally published at The Mission. I usually only repost articles after at least a few days on their original place of publication, but given that this is specifically written for Thanksgiving, I am reposting it today.
“I am not grateful for anything this year.”
“Here’s why you should RUIN Thanksgiving Dinner for your relatives who disagree with your politics!”
“How can anybody be grateful for anything when they turn on the news and see the state of our world and country today?”
These are real headlines I’ve seen this week. Two of these I’ve seen this morning alone.
(I actually agree with the third one…not because I think the world is in a bad place but because I think cable news and media are designed to make you anxious and miserable.)
It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This is a holiday traditionally used to enjoy time with family and reflect on what there is in life for which to be grateful. Even when things get hard and life looks like a world filled with malevolence, we can take a moment to step back and understand that there’s always something for which we can be grateful.
For many young people (who read Medium) in the US today, their biggest problems take the forms of how they’ll pay off student loans while still being able to enjoy boozy brunch. They get anxious and worked up about what so-and-so (R) said, or a policy proposed by what’s-his-face (D) on the news, but the likelihood that these policies will directly affect them and that there’s something they can immediately do about it is so low that they would be better off if they never saw articles about so-and-so and what’s-his-face in the first place.
A generation ago, these same people would not be able to see their family with ease by flying on discounted airlines or opening up FaceTime. They would not have been able to get medicine for their sinus infection by easily Skyping with a doctor. They would not be able to go about their weeks without (reasonable) fear of nuclear annihilation.
Two generations ago, if they are young men like myself, they probably would have been crawling along (or lying on) a beach in Europe or Asia right now, fighting a far-off war about which they would only learn more in retrospect. If they’re women, they’d be at home working in a factory filling rations or ammunition for this far-off war.
Fifteen generations ago, they’d probably die in childbirth, drink water infected with cholera, or be kidnapped as part of a raiding party.
This is not to say that we should not strive to outdo ourselves. There are people all over the world today who can’t afford the convenience of reading articles on Medium or enjoying a hearty dinner with their families (even a distressing number in the US). There are real forces like stagnation, inflation, and pessimism in the world. We should each live our lives every day in rejection of these forces.
But do not lose the forest for the trees. The vast majority of the world is better off today than ever before. If you are reading this, you are likely one of the wealthiest people in the world and have a lot for which you can be grateful.
So turn off cable news and push notifications from Apple News. Ignore Facebook posts about this-or-that Scandal Of The Week ™.
Call your parents. Tell your friends you appreciate them. Be grateful for what you have and strive to build the world out further in abundance.