On Gratitude


In light of the upcoming holiday, I have been trying every way possible to avoid having this conversation.  It’s Thanksgiving, for crying out loud…EVERYBODY is talking about being thankful.  I did not want to become a part of the cliché.  It would have been too easy. 

Then it started.

Tuesday, I was riding to a recording session with some of my fellow choir members.  Thinking about how much of an honor it was, I made a matter-of-fact declaration, “I honestly have no right to be doing anything more than hooking on Halsted.” The stunned silence was palpable, so just started singing along to the radio.

Wednesday, we’re at church, in the last few minutes of family prayer, getting ready to sing, when I feel a wave of gratitude rush over me to the point that my eyes burn with fresh tears.  I have every right to be so mad and disconnected from God.  “Church Folk” have done more to drive me away from God than ANYBODY.  And yet, there I stood, one hand raised, one hand holding a microphone, preparing to sing praises to my Father God who has shown me so much unquestionable love and favor and mercy that I cannot help but praise Him and tell Him, “Thank you!”

Thursday, I decided to have Thanksgiving a week in advance.  Took my meager unemployment check and bought fresh pasta, alfredo sauce and shrimp; a bunch of flavored teas (we like to drink them iced); and a bucket of ice cream with chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. I just wanted to spend some time being grateful for my sons.  They have so many reasons to be bitter themselves, yet, they are kind, generous, FUNNY people, and I wanted to celebrate that.

But this Friday night (or Saturday morning) I am sitting in my bed, typing this out, completely wrung out from all the tears I cried only a couple of hours ago. I have felt such profound gratitude that I could do nothing but cry for a half an hour straight.

My pastor, Dan Willis, took a very select few people to the red carpet premier of a movie of which he was a part.  The movie is called, “Dreams.” It was, for me, a montage of many of the acts of violence that were perpetrated against me as a child along with clear, descriptive characters, depicting many of the sick, sad, maddening personalities that exist in a world that depraved.  So many scenarios, all being played out together.  So many victims. Very few survivors. As I emerged from that dark theater into the harsh light of the lobby, one stark reality overwhelmed me: I MADE IT OUT ALIVE. Millions didn’t make it, but I was one of the ones that did.  I am not crazy.  I am not depraved.  I am not an abuser.  I am not a drama junkie. I am not a survivor. I AM A VICTOR.

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I was dressed for the red carpet, done up to the nines.  My makeup (if I do say so myself) was flawless.  I truly wish I had taken a picture before I went into the theater. As I walked over to join my group, a couple of tears began to well up.  I caught them quickly and scrambled to compose myself.  I could not bear for anyone to see me like this. Not because I was embarrassed, mind you.  I just knew that if they saw me crying, they would want to comfort me. I was crying because I was GRATEFUL and I did not want to lose the moment in anyone else’s emotionalism.  I rushed to my seat, snatched my MP3 player and headphones, attached them to my ears, hung my head and made like I was sleep.  This gave them leave to chatter gleefully around me.  I then proceeded to soak my blouse and jacket through with grateful tears.

Few people can understand why I am the way I am.  I have friends that have gone through things – not less than what I endured, but different – that don’t understand why they are unhappy and I am so joyful.  I don’t deny how very little sense it makes. For years, I fought to survive.  Every breath, every good day, every smile, every giggle, every hug, every loving word or touch…these are things I once believed I did not deserve…these are things for which I am eternally grateful. So, what ON EARTH would be the point of complaining about what I do not have when EVERY GOOD THING that I do have is merely icing on the cake of the fact that I AM ALIVE AND WHOLE?

Be well, this Thanksgiving season.  Be well and be GRATEFUL.  You don’t have to be here.  You could be somewhere else…like…say…DEAD. Be the hero of your story.  Be the victor.  Be GRATEFUL.

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