Every weekday at 7:50am, the staff and residents of Breakthrough Urban Ministries would celebrate. Imagine 30 homeless men having just been woken up, some still with bed hair (if they had hair), and others rushing around to get what they needed before the day started. At 7:50am, everyone stopped what they were doing, sat down, and celebrated.

“Good morning everyone, my name is _____.”

“Good morning, ______.”

“Today I just want to celebrate God waking me up in my right mind…”

Not everyone had to celebrate something, but most people did. And when they did, it almost always started the same way. For some reason, everyone wanted to thank God that they woke up and that they woke up sober, as if those two things were enough to make every day a good day.

Most celebrations were short and simple. Celebrations for life, sobriety, a job interview, or the weather. Sometimes one of the residents would start preaching, and a staff member would have to intervene: “Sir, what exactly are you celebrating?” Every once in awhile, a celebration would leave us speechless, reminding us that every act of thanksgiving was holy. I still remember men celebrating seeing their children for the first time in years, celebrating triumphs over addiction, and celebrating moving into their own apartments. How powerful it is when the first words out of our mouths to start the day are, “Today I’m thankful for…”

Our supervisor once confessed to us that our Celebration Time was an idea stolen from Walmart. Apparently they do it too. And we would joke that Celebration Time was the only time of the day that the residents were Christian. When Celebration ended, everyone went back to what they were doing: brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, complaining. But for those 10 minutes, everything slowed down, everyone knew each other’s name, and we just said “Thank you” over and over again. Something about that is sacred.

Many pop psych books will talk about how important it is to be thankful. This is not a trend; I believe this is part of how we’re made. Indeed the Bible even tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. For many of us, we are simply too busy to be thankful, too rushed to open our eyes to the gifts in our own hands. But for those homeless men, thanksgiving was survival, celebration one of the few defenses against despair. How ironic that I have so much more than they do, and yet I am so entitled, blind, privileged, and ungrateful. I cannot even give thanks in the best of circumstances. How am I to give thanks in all¬†circumstances?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.

God, today I thank you for life, breath, and strength. Thank you for another day that wasn’t promised. Thank you that I have a computer to use, a desk to rest it on, and a chair to sit in. Thank you that I have a clean, warm bed to sleep in tonight. Thank you for family, for food, for a roof over my head. Thank you for your grace and faithfulness. Today I celebrate life, family, and safety. Amen.

Today, you woke up. That is reason enough to celebrate.