11/25/2015 04:12 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2016

Giving Thanks in Tumultuous Times

We live in tumultuous times. In cafes and concert halls, mosques and churches, hotels and schools--people are losing their lives in senseless, brutal attacks.

Meanwhile, politicians are arguing about closing our country's borders and expelling foreigners living among us. Leaders are debating whether to contain the threat or outright destroy it--by dropping a barrage of bombs on our enemies and whoever else gets in the way. People are trading barbs about the merits of accepting refugees into our country and the screening they ought to undergo.

Everyone is offended. Everyone is afraid. Everyone is wrong.

Thanksgiving seems disconnected from reality.
In this place of fear and tension, uncertainty and anxiety, disagreement and opportunism, we in America are celebrating our oldest holiday--older than even Independence Day.


Forgive me for saying this, but it seems odd, giving thanks and feasting around a dinner table. In light of the tragedies and conflicts, it feels disconnected from reality. Excessive and inconsistent.

Shouldn't we watch another presidential primary debate? Shouldn't we continue arguing on Facebook? Shouldn't we brace for the next terrorist attack? Shouldn't we preach to our choirs? Shouldn't we hunker down and wait out this turbulent season?

But giving thanks is exactly what we need.
Maybe. Or maybe giving thanks is exactly what we need.

Perhaps in this precise moment we ought to step back and take stock of our lives and the many ways in which we're blessed. Perhaps we need to stop arguing, place fear to the side, step away from the anxiety, forget our hurt feelings, and simply give thanks.

Why? Because something miraculous happens when we're thankful. We stop looking at the world's problems, and instead, we see everything that's right in the world, all the beauty and joy.

We see the common ground upon which we stand. The ways in which we agree. What unites us and binds us together. What inspires us and pushes us forward.

And that changes everything.

What are you thankful for?
What are you thankful for in your life? I'm serious. Step back and consider the question. If you have a hard time coming up with an answer, let me help.

First, you're alive. This is the greatest gift, the ultimate blessing. You are living another day on this beautiful planet. Your heart is beating and your lungs are breathing. Blood is flowing through your veins. Your eyes are open. Your mind is functioning.

Second, you're not alone. Family and friends surround you. They make you smile and laugh. They encourage you and comfort you. And they love you. And you love them. And there's nothing better.

Everything else is bonus. Do you have a job? Give thanks. Do you have a home? Give thanks. Do you have food? Give thanks. Do you have heat? Give thanks. Do you have clothes? Give thanks. Do you have passions? Give thanks. Do you have community? Give thanks. Do you have freedom? Give thanks. Do you have pleasure? Give thanks. Do you have suffering? Give thanks.

Thanksgiving changes our perspective -- and our actions
Thanksgiving transforms everything because it changes our perspective. We go from seeing bad to focusing on good. From disagreement to agreement. From conflict to peace. From problems to blessings. From fear to hope. From hate to love.

And when our perspective changes, our actions change. The way we interact with those around us. The policies we support. The politicians who get our vote. The way we spend our money. How we use our time. How we treat our neighbor.

We pursue peace. Blessing. Hope. Love. In our personal lives, but also in the life of our country and even the world. That's a perspective we need not just one day a year--on Thanksgiving. But every single day.

Paul Perkins writes about living intentionally at For more of his writing, follow him on Facebook and get a free copy of his eBook, The Art of Creating, about developing your artistic craft.