Gratitude in Hard Times

I thought this letter by Erin Barnett, Director of Local Harvest (, was a good read for Thanksgiving gratitude.

Last weekend my husband and I finished putting our garden to bed for the winter. There wasn’t much left to do before the snow comes, but we raked leaves over the perennials and rolled up the chicken-wire fences to store in the garage until spring. By Saturday afternoon the last remaining task was to dig up the dahlia tubers. A hard frost last week had turned the dahlia foliage limp and black, quite unappealing.

As with many of our vegetables, this wasn’t a good year for dahlias. I got only a handful of blooms off of a dozen beautiful looking plants. I assumed that if the plants could not flower, the tubers under the soil were likely in poor shape; digging them up for next year seemed not worth the trouble. But eventually I got over my ambivalence, cut back the dead foliage, and sunk my spade into the soil. I was surprised to find a huge clump of healthy tubers, twice as big as any from last year. I am no botanist, but all I can conclude is that somehow the conditions were not good for flowering, and that in that less than auspicious environment the plants decided to conserve their energy and store it up for next year.

Those dahlias got me thinking. For some people 2011 was an abundant year, but for many more it has been one marked by hardship and uncertainty. Every month we hear of farms closing because they can no longer afford to farm. Millions of people carry other burdens from the recession, and the collective stress is just plain painful. How easy it is to feel overwhelmed by all that we and our neighbors need, by all that did not flower this year. Yet here we are, approaching Thanksgiving, a time when many of us feel called to count our blessings and give thanks. What the dahlias made me consider is that when things are most difficult, when our best efforts have yielded little, it is possible that something good yet grows in silence, biding its time beneath the surface.

This is the essence of hope. It seems to me that in hard times a sense of hope is itself a blessing that deserves to be counted.

A few months ago someone sent me a quotation from a Native American prayer which says, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” So may we express our gratitude around our Thanksgiving tables, for those blessings already manifest, and for the capacity to sustain the hope that what is needed is on its way.

With gratitude and hope,


  1. Eileen Widman says:

    Yes! Amen to this. Gratitude in hard times grows us in unexpected ways!

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