Generating Gratitude?

by Richelle Wright on November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving is this week…

and so I feel a bit stupid starting out like this –  

I REALLY can’t stand listening to a generator.


I know. You’re wondering, “What’s the big deal?”

First, I’ve listened to them an awful lot lately.

Additionally, generators are noisy, they stink, there’s usually a big puff of black smoke as they start up, I’m quite sure they can’t be good for the environment and they consume a whole lot of diesel fuel and that gets expensive. Those might actually be considered valid reasons. They aren’t the ones behind my stronger than ambivalent dislike.

My antipathy towards those monstrosities authorizing electricity for some while everyone else plunges into darkness is simply sinful.

I detest them because I don’t have one…  while everyone else around me does… repeatedly jogging my memory of something I’d rather ignore.

When the power goes out – I’m stuck sitting in the dark trying to mark papers until I get frustrated and my head aches (candlelight is hard on these getting-older eyes of mine), or I’m finishing looking up the Zarma words with unfamiliar symbols for Saturday’s Bible study, or I’m washing dishes hoping they’ll look as clean in the daylight as they do under that dreamy flickery glow, and all the while I’m praying that the little ones don’t wake up because the difficulty of rejoining Mr. Sandman increases exponentially when the air seems deader than the inside of a tomb.  I’ve also discovered I sweat buckets at 11:00 at night when working near even the tiniest flame.

I used to begrudge those who experienced nothing more than a blip when the current sagged or disappeared altogether. I think I’ve gotten past that. I don’t wish they didn’t have one because I don’t, and I certainly understand why they use their generators. If I had one, I’d be using it, too.

EACH time, however, I hear a generator roar into life I’m vehemently reminded of something I’d rather ignore…. or perhaps convicted is more accurate…

I balk at the instruction to give thanks in all circumstances, and I see that reality in instant, slow motion replay each time I hear those machines jolt into life. I’m content to growl and complain. In some worldly, twisted way, it brings pleasure of the immediate but temporary kind.

I don’t want to thank the Lord that the local powers that be have once again denied me power.

My father-in-law served for some years in Haiti and tells of visiting a local electric company. Night had fallen, the plant was up on a small mountain outside of town, and he could see the city lights. An employee began pointing out different neighborhoods and then with a sly grin told my father-in-law to watch.


He switched a button; an entire neighborhood went dark. Then he laughed. According to Dad, those guffaws were just shy of the rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-out-loud kind.

I won’t assume something similar goes on here. And I can live and still function adequately with this particular frustration common to the expat experience of life in an impoverished, still-developing locality.

I can also willingly choose to refuse to give thanks.

We’ve had a smattering of power outages in recent days and weeks. More than normal. Each time I hear the neighboring generators roar into life, a still small voice calls to mind my own words: “I don’t want to thank the Lord that the local powers that be have once again denied me any power.” The voice doesn’t stop there, however. It continues, whispering, “It isn’t the electric company denying you power. You’ve done it to yourself, by not choosing gratitude.”

Not only am I stumbling and sweating it out without electricity, I’m also self-rendered powerless spiritually, choosing to be a victim of circumstances when God offers me joy and contentment.

Just like that dude at the electric plant in Haiti, by refusing gratitude, I’m flipping a switch, laughing… and plunging myself and those around me into darkness.

Choosing gratitude, however?

Choosing gratitude siphons any clout out of darkness. It leaves opportunity for vibrating voltage, exhilarating energy, and contagious current.

An electrical stream of thankfulness pulsating powerfully can provide perspective and light for me as well as for those nearby.

William Faulkner noted:

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”

Faulkner was absolutely right…


What, in your life, reminds you of those times you reject a thankful spirit?

 As you celebrate Thanksgiving, not just this week but throughout the year, how are you intentionally producing, discharging and using up gratitude?

– Richelle Wright, missionary in Niger, W. Africa

blog:   Our Wright-ing Pad    ministry:   Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger     facebook:  Richelle Wright

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About Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. ||
  • Yes! Just wrote on thanksgiving at my place! And how it just doesn’t “feel” like Thanksgiving in this tropical land! I intentionally keep a gratitude journal to fix my gaze on Him. Blessings to you from Uganda!

    • I hear you, Kelly. I think the holidays can be really hard– especially when you grow up in colder places and then celebrate winter holidays in the tropics.

      Love that you are intentionally thankful, ANYWAY–

      And Richelle, Loved this post. Love the authentic reminder of the GRIT of living in places where simple things like, you know, lights, are a battle.

    • After years here, it finally “feels” like Thanksgiving, but probably because I talk myself into it! The sky looks like a bright Michigan fall blue and there’s one tree here where the leaves turn yellow and drop in November…

      I also keep a gratitude journal – do you link up with Holy Experience? Seems like I might have seen you there before.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  • I feel your no-electricity pain. We didn’t have a generator for nine years. Or, we did, but it barely worked and only sometimes. My husband and I joke that battery-operated rechargeable fans saved our marriage because I struggled so much with anger when the power was out. My kids have done homework by candlelight and my husband’s students have taken final exams by cellphone light. It IS hard, but thank you for the reminder to be thankful, even for the good things that OTHER people have, like generators. Or blood-relatives around the table this Thursday.

    • Yay for battery operated fans! Or an open window with a breeze in times like that.

      We don’t have any other than us family this year… but we do have friends visiting that we haven’t seen in 15 months, so it will still be a lovely Thanksgiving… they even brought ham and turkey from the States with them! (Sometimes, it is the little things!)

  • Lao weddings. Or Lao funerals. Karaoke or drums at all hours of the night, sometimes for days. Nothing pushes my buttons faster.

    • I’ve learned a whole new appreciation for that phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back” after living here and seeing how they load up those critters. Sometimes it is something so small… so banal that just pushes me right over the edge and then I feel awful especially when I look around at people with such desperate issues compared to my lack of electricity.

      On the other hand, the lack of sleep, be it due to no fans moving the air, drums and karaoke, or sick little ones makes it a challenge to hang onto an eternal perspective. Glad I’m not the only one who loses it sometimes over the stupid little things.

      • Oh, man, and isn’t it the “stupid things” that God often uses to break us, shape us?

        Lisa, I totally get the loud music. In Thailand, it was the late-night, realllly off-key karaoke!

  • Lynn Pottenger

    In the town where I normally live, they have a tradition of playing loud music all through the night when someone dies. It really annoys me when that happens close by because I want to sleep. They have lost a loved one and I am grumpy and complaining about the noise to myself and God. I have decided that instead of complaining I will think of all my loved ones far away and praise the Lord for giving them to me and pray for the family that is missing loved ones. When I am thankful it is much harder to complain and it is a bit easier to give grace. Then I go looking for some ear plugs. Thanks for this reminder that no matter what the circumstances, we need to have a grateful heart.

    • An awesome practice! Thinking of others and giving thanks. I think there’s a Japanese (??) proverb that goes something like “When we think of others first, we encourage ourselves….” (I’m not remembering that exactly, but that’s the general idea). And the earplugs? =D

  • Richelle, this is a wonderful Thanksgiving Day post! The word ‘content’ caught my eye.

    First: “I’m content to growl and complain. In some worldly, twisted way, it brings pleasure of the immediate but temporary kind.”

    Then: “Not only am I stumbling and sweating it out without electricity, I’m also self-rendered powerless spiritually, choosing to be a victim of circumstances when God offers me joy and contentment.”

    How often I choose to be content in growling (quite literally) when there is a redeemed contentment offered to me by the grace of God.

    I appreciate your kind, wise words. Thank you for writing this post.

    • I loved that reminder too that I don’t have to be “a victim of circumstances.” The God in me can chooser differently, better.

      • … sometimes I wish He didn’t give me the choice… it would be easier that way – but wouldn’t mean as much in the end, either. 🙂

    • Thanks, Angie – for your kind words. Got to practice what I was preaching since we were without power a huge chunk of both Wed. and Thursday… so in the long run, I was probably writing that more for me than for anyone else! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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