The Rockwood Files: How bad times make good times better

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

When I’m not writing for the newspaper (or driving carpool, or doing dishes, or staying way too busy to exercise even though I swear I’m going to), I’m writing every day for a website. And last week on the website, we asked an audience of mostly women and mothers to answer a simple question: “What are you thankful for this year?”

Of course, I anticipated some of the answers – family, friends, good health, etc. What I didn’t expect was the sincerity and the bounty of those “thank you’s” and how those thanks were directed toward the source of all of it – God. Even in what are obviously hard times for many of those answering the question, people acknowledge and appreciate that God is taking care of them. (Click here to see those posted comments by local moms.)

Some of the women mentioned serious illnesses that either they or people in their families are facing – swine flu, cancer, recovery from an accident. Some of them mentioned job losses that they or their spouses (or both) have suffered through this year. Many of them mentioned that they are waiting and praying for a military spouse to come home from overseas. One or two of them even said that they had lost their home this year because of a job loss and a terrible economy.

Given all the hardship, it would have been understandable if people felt a little low in the thankfulness department. But they weren’t low at all. Despite the tough times, they seem to be more thankful than ever.

They happily listed their blessings – their husbands, children, parents, a home, a good job, their health. They focused on the big things – the things that matter most in tough times. One woman who lost her job and is struggling financially said she’s thankful to have working legs that enable her to get up and go look for a job every day. She knows that not everybody can do that.

Seeing those comments reminded me that, like it or not, we all need a point of comparison. Good times wouldn’t be nearly as good if we didn’t know the difference between good times and bad. They would all blend together with no distinct highs or lows.

Even though times are hard for so many people right now, the adversity serves as a contrast and highlights our blessings even more.

If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or food poisoning, you know how sincerely thankful you are when it’s finally over, when you feel good again. Suddenly, feeling good goes to a whole new level and you’re able to appreciate it so much more than you did before.

Mothers, in particular, are given a good sense of contrast. It truly is a blessing to carry a baby, but pregnancy does often have some unpleasant side effects – bloating, heartburn, nausea, hemorrhoids, back pain, anxiety. And then you go into labor and it feels like a Cadillac with elbows is passing through a small hole in your body.

But all that hard stuff sets you up for the most joyful of moments when you see the tiny face that has been growing inside you for nine months. I remember telling my husband that I’d give birth every single day as long as it was followed by that supreme moment of blessing at the end of it. There is nothing like it.

I sincerely hope that hard times haven’t fallen on you and yours this year. But if they have, I hope you overcome them and I hope the experience serves to heighten your joy in the good things that remain.

From my family to yours, have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

Want to read previous installments of The Rockwood Files? Click HERE.