Consider the woman at the heart of the poignant, haunting and beautiful Angel of Montgomery. John Prine, the songwriter, says this: "I had this really vivid picture of this women standing over the dishwasher with soap on her hands. She wanted to get of her house and her marriage and everything. She just wanted an angel to take her away." And so, we hear:
There's flies in the kitchen, I can hear 'em there buzzing
And I ain't done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say?
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me me one thing, that I can hold onto
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
You really need to hear the song to know why it has become iconic and, to be perfectly honest, I haven't the foggiest idea what the poster of a rodeo means. But I do know that despair and broken relationships and dreams perpetually deferred and anxiety and anger and a general weariness are the undercurrent of many of our lives and in the face if this, in the middle of it all, to say, "Don't worry, be happy" dismisses the lived experience of all of us at times, and suggests that gratitude must simply be willed into existence, like a garment thrown haphazardly over an ignored wound.
To be thankful, to encourage gratitude in others, we have to first hear the lament of the woman at the sink - "How the hell can a person go to work in the morning/And come home in the evening and have nothing to say" - and recognize that gratitude is sometimes hard won and often only possible with the help of others. As we move through this season of thankfulness, listen for lament in the lives of friend and acquaintance. You may not have to listen long or hard.