Richard Greene

Being thankful even when election results didn’t go your way

A demonstrator holds a banner as people protest during a Nov. 12 march in downtown Washington in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump.
A demonstrator holds a banner as people protest during a Nov. 12 march in downtown Washington in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump. AP

With Thanksgiving now just a few days’ away, readers can expect the annual suggestions from columnists across the media offering reasons to be thankful.

Always appropriate on this occasion are the familiar reminders of life, liberty, family and blessings that abound regardless of circumstances we all face that divert us from having a thankful spirit.

Departing from the customary theme, I’ve done a little research to see if reasons could be found to be thankful specifically in the wake of an election that didn’t go your way.

With the kind of vitriol, bad behavior and lawlessness we’ve seen in the streets of cities across the country and on social media, it would be easy to dismiss such a notion as a fool’s errand.

Regardless of the differences in how strongly we feel about who won and who didn’t, there are things for us to focus on that provide opportunities to develop a thankful spirit in ourselves and others.

We begin with the most obvious. We live in the greatest country on earth, with a form of government that works to balance extremes and produce outcomes that leave most of us at least hopeful.

We can be thankful that has not changed.

To avoid being preachy — after all, who am I to pass out advice? — I found some really qualified people to help with the mission of developing a thankful election response.

Losing provides a great opportunity to demonstrate to our children, friends and neighbors how to deal with disappointment.

USA Today quoted noted psychologist Mary Alvord, who recognizes the importance of the human spirit’s ability to recover from adversity: “Typically we feel good when we help others, and we definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when we exhibit self-control.”

There’s an added bonus: “By doing these things, we strengthen our own resilience.”

We can be thankful for our ability to control our response to adversity, real or imagined.

Then there is advice from Vaile Wright, a member of the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America team:

“Say to yourself, ‘I don’t like this outcome, but this is the way it is and I’m going to move forward.’ Fighting is just going to prolong one’s disappointment.”

We can be thankful for the reality life brings and for our controlled response to it.

Wright encourages a positive rather than negative response to an outcome that was not what was wanted:

“Disappointment can motivate us to action — ideally in a positive way. Decide what you can do to make a difference.”

Alvord urged, “This can make people feel empowered … you’re not helpless, you’re not a victim. Focus on what you can control, take your passion and put it into some kind of action,” such as volunteering with a group that is working on something important to you that would benefit others.

We can be thankful for the opportunity to serve others.

So, these are words of insight to help Hillary Clinton supporters deal with their response to her being defeated by Donald Trump?

Actually, no. These encouragements were offered before Election Day and addressed to everyone who might be interested regardless of political party or their personal candidate.

Finally, there’s the traditional scene of completely disparate folks portrayed as pilgrims and American Indians demonstrating gratefulness to the creator who had sustained them another year.

When all else fails, there’s the thankful knowledge among people of faith that none of us are actually in control.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.