Every day you’re not in an ICU is a great day

Hamlet famously said, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

In a similar vein, a friend of mine, a retired therapist, recently wrote that, "we do not see reality as it is, but as we are, through our own lenses."

Which brings me to the holiday season. One of the several reasons Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is that it reminds me annually to check the lenses through which I'm seeing the world and myself.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but my first wife, Renee, liked to joke that I was the kind of guy who could find the dark cloud in any silver lining. (In other words -- I was born to be a journalist! Sorry, friends, a little ink-stained-wretch humor there.)

Although she never knew it, in the waning days of her life Renee inadvertently helped improve my vision in that regard, helped me focus more on the silver linings than on dark clouds.

You might remember that she, a lovely and vivacious woman, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer at 39, spent five years nearly bedfast, then died at 44. I was her primary caregiver.

Watching her waste away until she was helpless as a baby bird taught me many lessons, most of which I never wanted to know.

One lesson, though, affected me for the better.

It's this: any day I can get out of bed under my own power and go downstairs to brew my coffee is a good day. Pretty much whatever happens from there, I'm ahead of the game. So many people, far better people than I am, can't get out of bed. Or have no bed to get out of. I should be brimming with thanks all day, every blessed day.

But such thinking doesn't come naturally to me, and often I find myself backsliding. I start seeing through my old dark lenses.

The growth of my retirement account has stagnated. My A1C won't come down. Customer service stinks. Attendance at my church is low. My knee gave out. My back hurts. There's too much traffic on the roads. The war in Gaza is about to blow up into World War III. The weather is unseasonably hot. The weather is unseasonably cold. The weather is unseasonably wet.

There's always something to be hacked off, worried or maybe even depressed about.

I find myself forgetting that I got out of bed without help this morning and enjoyed two or three steaming cups of delicious coffee.

Then, fortunately, Thanksgiving rolls around again. It reminds me to rejoice, to be thankful. I need the reminder.

The sun came up. I've got a roof on my house, central air and central heat, so whatever the weather does I'm OK for a while. My wife loves me and, I'm pretty sure, even likes me. I've got a fine son who calls or texts me every day. I've got Medicare, hallelujah. My church's adult Sunday School is going gangbusters. Every week I get to take one of my granddaughters to her horseback riding lesson -- in my 11-year-old car that's paid off and still runs like brand new.

I could go on, but you get the point. I've got as many things to thank God for as to fuss about. It's all a matter of where I focus. I can be happy and grateful and full of praise or I can be sour and ungrateful and mad at my Maker.

It's up to me and my mind. Every morning I get to make that choice. Being thankful isn't always as much about what happens to you as about what you choose to do with what happens to you.

Choosing a life of thanksgiving doesn't mean living in denial or developing toxic positivity. Just venture online to watch a few minutes of the gruesome images coming out of Israel and Gaza. You'll quickly be disabused of the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds. No, sorry, Dr. Pangloss, I'm convinced it isn't. Not even close.

But it's the only world we have at the moment. And if you're stuck here you might as well make the best of it. Pay attention to the good. Every day, blessings are going on all around you, even in the midst of very real sorrows. Be grateful.

Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling, Ky. You can email him at

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