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Cloudy With Brilliant Sunrise

November 30 , 2019
By Tibebu Bekele ( Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement. )

I am not a big fan of importing cultural holidays from the West and commercialising them here in Ethiopia. But I also realise in this 21st century globalised world, it is impossible to stop the cross-pollination of cultures. If that is inevitable, the one American traditional holiday I would not mind celebrating is Thanksgiving. For one thing it is the least commercialised of them all. But more importantly, it is about two values that I believe are virtuous – family and gratefulness.

Gratefulness and a spirit of gratitude is sadly lacking in this country. Listening to the public discourse these days makes one wonder if there was ever any good that has ever happened in this old country. It seems like every historical figure is portrayed as the devil incarnate. If one was to go by what is being said these days, one will reach the conclusion that this must be the most wretched place in the world.

But it is not. Sure, a fair share of bad historical incidents have happened here. Like everywhere else. It is true there have been cover-ups and the over glorification of some and under representation of others in the country’s history. Like everywhere else. Sure, these things need to be changed and historical mistakes need to be acknowledged and corrected. Like everywhere else. And the process of getting there will be contentious and bitterly contested. Again, that is not unique to Ethiopia. That is how it is everywhere. But the level of bitterness and total lack of perspective and balance is frightening.

“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received,” says Robert Emmons, explaining gratitude. In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Every person, institution or country has received many good gifts from society. Nobody is a recipient of only bad things. The same goes about family. Not every family history is filled with goodness and love. There are skeletons in every family’s closets. There are misunderstandings and hurts that happen along the way. Some of these are very painful and hard to get over.

But gratitude is a choice. It is a choice to overcome the pain and disappointment of life by refusing to let them be the only things one sees. It is a resolve to not be dominated by only the negative energy in the world. Because that is not the whole picture. That is not reality. There is a lot of good and beautiful things as well. And gratitude is an attitude that says, "I choose to see the good also." It is about refusing to turn a blind eye to the good and obsess exclusively about the bad.

“However, it is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice we make. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful—to take our gifts and blessings for granted. As a choice, gratitude is an attitude or disposition,” says Angeles Arrien in her book “Living in Gratitude”.

Therefore, as the debates and arguments of the coming election year intensify, it is good to remember that this country, with all its problems, also has had its good moments too. There are dark clouds hovering over. But the sunrise this morning was just beautiful. I have seen them both. I choose to dwell on the beautiful sunrise.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 30,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1022]

Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement.

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