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Through the relatively short time that I have lived on this earth, there are few things that have impacted me as deeply as pain. We have all experienced it before, and we must all draw our next breath knowing that we will be forced to experience it once again.

On October 5th of this year, I experienced a sorrow that I have never had to experience before; the unexpected death of a child. Although this young boy was not my own, the glimpse of pain I experienced in my physical relation to him and his parents clearly reminded me how intensely the experience of pain can change us. Pain changes everything. In this situation, it is clear that the reality of the pain that we have experienced will dictate how we will live the rest of our lives.

Where is the beauty in this pain? Where is the beauty in knowing that this child will never be physically held again on this earth? Where is the beauty in feeling the deep cut to heart when we understand that we will never be able to see his first day of High School, let alone his first day of kindergarten?

The beauty partially comes in knowing that his memory will never be lost, in knowing that he will never have to experience pain again, and that the love that was shown to him will remain timelessly deep and uninhibited.

But pain can produce something else in us that, without the experience of it, we can never hope to develop; thankfulness. To experience death and pain is to admit that there is something bigger than us and that there are things we can’t control. To be thankful is to admit the very same truth. The great news is that, if we let it, the pain we experience can lead to a level of thankfulness that we cannot unlock without the key that is PAIN.

Thankfulness is a matter of perspective. Perspective is aligned when we experience and progress through pain. True thankfulness should be viewed in light of the pain we experience. Many times our perspective is refined and aligned even further by the pain others experience. Think for just a moment on something you are thankful for. Now ask yourself; would you feel the level of thankfulness that you do if you had not experienced either first or second hand the pain that may come in having to do without that blessing?

Pain, including the reality of potential loss can work beautiful things in us. To push either of these things away completely will short-circuit the blessing we receive from experiencing that pain. And we are not the only ones affected. The denial of the pain we feel in any circumstance does not lead us closer to happiness, it draws us further away from the truth. To deny the painful feelings we experience is to deny the very hand of God who seeks to focus our attention on the many blessings He gives us! And I’m not sure there are many that would argue that happiness comes from denying the reality of the blessings we have been given in this life!

Thankfulness comes when we embrace, not fight against, the reality that the things that happen in this world are mostly outside of our control. To be thankful is to embrace that you have been blessed with things that you could not produce on your own.

My encouragement to you is this; as we enter the season that many of us equate with remembering the blessings we have been given, let us also remember that there are those less fortunate that we are in this world. There are people experiencing pain in ways that we have not, and hope to never experience. Embrace people in painful circumstances as often as you can, with the hope that in so doing, YOU will be made more thankful. And do what you can to help them remember this; it is not the band-aid that you place on the wound that bring thankfulness, it is the love that is shown them as they experience it. Remember how blessed you are, especially in this season, and then cause that thankfulness to grow by choosing to be a blessing to others!

Earl Burns has over 20 years of mentoring experience to teens and individuals and oversees our programs that cater specifically to the male partners and parents of Hope Clinic’s clients. He started as a volunteer at Hope Clinic and now also leads the prevention program as well as manages relationships with our other Agency partners. You can email Earl at: eburns@hopeclinicforwomen.org