With papers piling up, friends disappearing into quarantine, and the future of the nation still unclear, there are many things to feel stressed and even angry about. There is a temptation to express our frustration on social media or complain constantly to our friends.
But two words must be remembered even during times of struggle: “thank you.”
Being grateful does not make us submissive or ignore injustices when they occur. Rather, it strengthens our ability to stand up against breaches of power because we understand the value of what we’ve earned or been given and will not let that be taken away.
We should never stop fighting for our rights or the rights of others. But not every need or desire is an automatic right, and when we view everything as such, we can no longer see it as a gift.
Every winter, I get a cold that prevents me from breathing easily. And every time I reach for a tissue box, I wonder how I could have ever taken breathing through my nose for granted. Yet in a couple weeks, my ability to breathe has been restored and I don’t think twice about it again. As stressors have multiplied in the last few days, I’m reminded of this annual struggle, and wondering how many times I missed the chance to say “thank you” this year.
Yes, many of us have friends quarantined — perhaps unjustly, as many will argue right now. But there were many days this semester when all our friends were able to sit at dinner, study in A.J.’s Cafe, or walk through the Slayton Arboretum all together. Too often, I took these days for granted.
In every part of life there are opportunities or gifts. Friends in isolation give us the opportunity to serve them in a different way, whether it’s by bringing them food or making time for a phone call to remind them they are loved.
The paper deadlines, tests, and attempts to keep up with daily class assignments remind us of the opportunity college gives us to challenge ourselves — and to seek help from amazing professors, advisors, and friends when we need it.
The most powerful form of gratitude is to use a gift well. The fact that we are at Hillsdale right now is a gift. Whether it was a parent, donor, counselor, God, or all of the above, someone made it possible for each one of the students to be here. Take the time to study for hard tests. Get ice cream with your friends. Put effort into your part of the group project. Play a game of pool in the Grewcock Student Union. Use the gifts of friendship and being a student well; use them with joy and grace.
I am grateful for the opportunities to grow in friendship, knowledge, and character that this year has presented. I am thankful for Hillsdale College and all the work of the professors, administrators, food service workers, and everyone else who makes it possible to stay open in the midst of chaos.
Even in the situations we do not choose, gratefulness only improves the difficulty. As St. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In all things, give thanks.”
Genevieve O’Gara is a sophomore studying English.