I stared at the truck with disbelief. Then annoyance.
A large, black Dodge Ram diesel stood in the parking lot, resting on gargantuan tires and hoisted on suspension high enough to climb over most rocks, trees, bears and humans. A silver triple-knobbed ball hitch jutted out from its tail at a length and height loosely calculated to bring serious knee damage to any daydreamer idling past the hind of the beast. The owner had proudly displayed decals in various clustered locations around the windows and body which were obviously important to him or her but held no meaning whatsoever for me. Old, dry mud randomly spattered diagonally up doors and fenders for effect.
Just walking past the Big Bad Truck made me want to buy a gun rack and rear hangy-things for our Honda but I knew I couldn’t fit them into our ‘pre-senior citizen, comfort ride’ motif. Whoever the driver was, he or she had already disappeared into the hardware store whose parking lot we were sharing.
Ah yes, the parking lot. The most annoying part about this huge truck – obviously compensation for some unspoken inadequacy – was that it was parked squarely over the bullseye of yellow lines where four parking spaces joined together. Literally one vehicle taking up space in four parking spots!
It was about then that a small smile appeared at the edge of my face with a brief thought. Then I brightened even more with the sudden and joyful realization that this bad parker was driving a Dodge! Yes, I could see the future and it was clear and beautiful. The poor bugger was driving a Dodge and it was just a matter of time until it would break down and he would pay! Oh yes, he would pay!
Then something even better began to creep into my thoughts as I wandered into the store looking for someone with a John Deere cap. Really, was this the biggest problem I would have today? Was it so horrific that I had to walk the extra twenty feet from a secondary parking space? And really, weren’t those extra steps actually good for me? Was my life so difficult? Was I facing some major trauma? What was my problem? And what did I know about the truck driver, really? Other than being a bad parker, maybe this was a nice person with different tastes than my own.
You see, I was going into the store to buy a ‘toy’ for myself because I could afford to, and after that I was heading over to pick up some locally roasted coffee beans because I’m a coffee snob and then I was going home to my loving wife and comfortable home. Big Bad Truck was actually a tiny, simple blip on the monitor screen of my life. Of any life.
BBTs (Big Bad Trucks for those of you who aren’t paying attention) are everywhere: some real, some imagined, some silly. Inconveniences and annoyances crowd our paths that really don’t deserve as much time and energy as we give them yet we allow ourselves to be overly occupied by them. Worse, BBTs detract us from the things around us that are good, that build and lift, encourage and bless.
(Just to catch you up, BBTs are metaphors for the random things that annoy us and take away our joy, kind of like what Big Bad Truck did to me. Just wasn’t sure whether I had made that clear or not because I’m kind of preoccupied by my BBTs.)
BBTs are everywhere. The traffic on our street is getting heavier and that Dominos delivery guy has the loudest muffler ever. The neighbours never turn off their front light. Eternal construction on ____ street. Costco is too busy. Carrots and tomatoes don’t taste like they used to. Why do those people across the street cut their grass with scissors? A&W gave me french fries instead of onion rings. I have to wait in line how long?
You know, important stuff.
But the worst BBTs are often just outside of our reach. I watch politicians politicking on both sides of the border with their ability to twist hunger for power into pretend passion for public service. Iran, China, Russia, Korea. Stock markets, trade negotiations, changing weather, internet vulnerabilities. People disagree a lot and don’t listen much. Then this morning I was researching a subject for an upcoming blog and stumbled onto some wacky conspiracy theories followed by some bizarre predictions by a christian ‘prophet’ who now has a small budget movie coming out funded by Liberty University. So bizarre.
As the BBTs become a daily habit here on our planet they can have a cumulative effect: we slowly become more negative, experiencing frustration in more and more circumstances, or else we grow into a mindset of apprehension, replacing goodness with hopelessness. The dark BBT idol.
So let me cut to the chase. I’m a christian. God loves me and I am surrounded by enough beauty and mystery to keep me endlessly occupied. The love and teachings and work of Jesus form the core of who I am and how I think. I have come to a place in my long journey where God makes so much sense that it flavours and clarifies my confusing world. But am I grateful? Why is it that I focus so much on my ‘woes’ and miss so much goodness? How do I contribute to the beauty? How would it change me and those around me if I could practice gratitude instead of just talking about it?
Gratitude is sadly missing in our world; in our lives. Not just saying thank you, but weaving an insight and practice of sincere thanks into every corner of our living. A pure gratitude is a holistic remedy for the BBTs and heals in ways we couldn’t even anticipate.
That is the subject of a popular book that was released this past April by Diana Butler Bass. The title is Grateful, The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks and it has received great reviews. She writes about the history, tradition, psychology and practice of gratitude as well as her own challenge with applying it in real life. Bass is a refreshing writer and researcher whose opinions are warm, insightful and entertaining. I follow her on Twitter and have heard her interviewed in numerous podcasts.
So with our annual fall celebration of Thanksgiving approaching, I plan to begin reading Grateful and will write through the process with a series of blogs on what I discover. I hope you join me here as I share the highlights and what they speak to me.
I’d also like to encourage you to purchase the book and read along with me. That’d be fun! (I have linked the Amazon site above for hardcover but Kindle and audio versions are also available. Also available at Chapters/Indigo and from her website.)
It would be wonderful to walk together and to hear from you as we learn through the stories and information. In any case, we are going to explore being grateful.
~ ~ ~
Some quick quotes from Grateful:
‘In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that fear and gratitude don’t exist in the same parts of our brains. Fear resides in the amygdala, the ‘reptilian’ part of our brain. Feelings of gratitude activate our neo-cortex, the front of the brain with our ‘higher thinking’ and more recently evolved capabilities. Indeed, researchers now believe that gratitude and fear cannot exist at the same time – that gratitude actually processes fear, effectively driving fear out, taming it, giving us human beings the possibility of acting with courage, hope, joy, compassion.
‘So when Jesus shows up at that table on the evening of the empty tomb in the room where a feast had become a funeral, a new table is set. It’s a table of gratitude – the gifts of God for the people of God – with the power to drive out fear.’
‘Gratitude is not about stuff. Gratitude is the emotional response to the surprise of our very existence, to sensing that inner light and realizing the astonishing sacred, social, and scientific events that brought each one of us into being. We cry out like the psalmist, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!’ (Ps. 139:14).
To see an interview with Diana (hey Anglicans & Methodists, she even mentions John Wesley!) check out this link: