On October 26, Coptic Christians in Minya, Egypt locked themselves inside their church as a mob of more than one thousand people gathered outside its doors. Though the Copts were not the aggressors in this latest confrontation by the Muslim community, heads of the Coptic church were required to attend a “peace meeting” and sign a written agreement which “indicated a framework of friendliness, love, and brotherhood.”
On November 13, a North Korean defector, found hiding under leaves with five gunshot wounds, was found to have parasites in his intestines – one of which was almost a foot long. In a nation where almost half of the population is undernourished, 22% of spending is designated to the military, and human excrement is used for fertilizer, worms are not surprising, I suppose.
On November 18, the Associated Press reported that six or more people were killed in a suspected jihadist attack in the northern province of Soum in Burkina Faso. Though Burkina Faso has joined efforts in the Sahel Counterterrorism Force with neighbors Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad in an attempt to prevent such attacks from al-Qaida and Boko Haram, the G5 Sahel is severely underfunded.
This week in the United States, we prepare for one of our favorite holidays. While commercially it has become the unofficial official start of the Christmas Season, Thanksgiving as a holiday should not be lost in the shadow of football, too-many-pieces-of-pie, and Black Friday Sales. Whatever you think of the United States right now, whatever you think about her President, whatever you think about the cultural and political climate, whatever you think about the economy, whatever you think about the ridiculous latest Starbucks controversy over hand holding on their holiday cup – pause for a moment. Life is hard, I know. Maybe you’ve lost someone you love. Maybe you’re struggling from paycheck to paycheck. Maybe your mom isn’t mashing the potatoes this year. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an incurable disease.
When we strip away everything we’re worried about, we are left with so many gifts – so many blessings that are unspeakably good: friendship, love, family, clean water, socks, toothpaste, beauty, art, literature, science, technology, stars on a new moon night, daylight even in the midst of storms, and if absolutely nothing else, the pure joy of not having an eleven-inch worm in our guts.
Even at our poorest and our darkest moments – individually and corporately – we are among the safest and freest peoples in the history of this world. That is worth taking a moment this week to reflect and offer up gratitude.
So go ahead. Say it to those you love. Say it to those you appreciate. Say it to your waitress at the local café. Say it to the police officer who pulls you over. Say it to your mother and your father. Say it to your boss and your co-workers. Say it to your pastor. Say it to your Creator.
Give thanks, folks.