A different kind of thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, I invite you to consider a tragedy or a traumatic experience that changed the course of your life.  That is typically not what we put on our Thanksgiving list. 

However, looking back, we often see we have gained new insight, grown in unexpected ways, learned important lessons, discovered strengths of which we weren’t aware and maybe most surprising is we have found a way to make it useful by helping someone else going through a difficult time.   

In a recent issue of the St. Anthony Messenger, a monthly magazine published by the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati, Ohio, three people were interviewed as to how 9/11 changed their lives.

Dr. James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C., remembers death threats that necessitated police protection for his office. 

A couple days later, a lady from the office next door knocked, holding a plateful of brownies, saying, “I know your office is afraid and we just want you to know we care about you.”

Zogby said while they had done nothing to deserve the death threats or the brownies, the thoughtfulness of a neighbor reminded them in a powerful way of the inherent goodness of people and kept them from getting stuck in resentment and fear.

Kelly Ann Lynch was a close friend of Catholic priest Father Mychal Judge who was killed while administering last rites to a fallen firefighter.  She recalls the feeling of total emptiness and irreplaceable loss. 

A few months later, her family found a way to honor the priest when Kelly’s eleven-year old daughter Shannon asked her family and friends to donate socks for the homeless instead of giving her gifts on her birthday. That led to an organization called Mychals’ Message and so the spirit of Father Mychals lives on.

From their work with the homeless, Kelly Lynch says, “I’ve learned everyone has a story and I’ve learned not to judge because there can be no loving if you are judging.”

Krista Tippett, host of the public radio show On Being, spoke of anger.  “We get to be angry and that’s part of who we are.  But the question always is: What do you do with your anger?  How do you live with it?  Do you let it shape your actions? Do you let it shape who you’ve become?”

If you are stuck in the aftermath of a traumatic event, ponder the following question:  What can I learn from the experience and how can I use that to help someone else?

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