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.