Practicing Gratitude in the Middle of it All

Thousand-year-old olive tree overlooking the city of Hebron.

Thousand-year-old olive tree overlooking the city of Hebron.

Life is not meant to be a burden. Life is not a problem to be solved. It is a blessing to be celebrated. Every dimension of life, its gains and its losses, are reasons for celebration because each of them brings us closer to wisdom and fullness of understanding.
– Joan Chittister

In the U.S. the end of November means the celebration of Thanksgiving. The importance of setting aside time to give thanks, not just on one day in November, but as a daily practice, cannot be dismissed.

Here in Hebron, we may sometimes ask: For what can we possibly be thankful? We see teargas lobbed at children regularly, men and boys detained daily, frequent harassment of Palestinians. Violence. Hopelessness.

Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith.
– Henri Nouwen

It is in places like Hebron where we must practice gratitude, where we must not let the bad that we see eclipse the good that, against all odds, abounds. For how can we possibly harness and share goodness if we are unable even to recognize it around us?

And so we, the current CPT Palestine team, offer the following – the places and times where light breaks through darkness, where hope conquers hopelessness, where love wins over hatred, fear, and apathy:

I am grateful for the family and friendship, that support us in every aspect of life.

I am grateful for my son and the beauty and promise of his life that waits him. There is hope in each new innocent life that is presented to us, knowing that we are giving the opportunity towards leading them towards the path of love. Each day I am reminded of this, because kids naturally want to love and be loved. I see this not only in my son, but in all the young children around me.

When hope is under serious threat, I can always turn to the earth.  Sometimes I resonate with the words of Saint Catherine of Siena, “I wanted to be a hermit and only hear the hymns of the earth and the laughter of the sky.”  As I passed through a valley between Bethlehem and Hebron the other day, I saw the earth sing in rust-coloured grape vines and leafy green veggies.  For several days, the sky has been laughing at us with rain showers, thwarting our plans with downpours and floods.  And today, as promised, the sun comes out again.  Gazing at thousand year old olive trees, I marvel at the way they can grow in dry and rocky places.  And I’m reminded that the earth continues its steadfast resistance, slowly overtaking landscapes of fear.

I am grateful for the Palestinians who show me what perseverance, courage, patience, and hospitality look like. I am grateful for teammates and friends near and far who show me how to live compassionately and how to embody humility by recognizing that our work is not our own, but the product of God working through us. I hope that someday this team won’t be needed, but while it is, I am grateful for the many people who make it possible for me to here to share in this work.

I always feel that God is beside me. If a door closes in my face, God opens another door for me. I am glad that I am working with the team, that God opened that door for me. I am happy that I have the support of the team and that I can do this work. Sometimes I smile and hope that everything will be good, so I carry that hope and don’t live in the circle where everything is bad.

I am grateful for the infinity of the sky to remind me of the expansiveness of God.

For these things and many more, we are grateful. We sincerely hope that you, too, see beauty, notice experiences of grace, and find many reasons for gratitude at any moment and wherever you may be.

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About Christian Peacemaker Teams Palestine

CPT Palestine is a faith-based organization that supports Palestinian-led, non-violent grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation.
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