“I will continue to be thankful for a smile from a stranger and will try to do something about the things I can change. And then I will be thankful for having been able to make that change.”

Kiron Student, Alaa

“Gott sei dank”


As a Muslim girl I was taught to thank God in all situations, because in our faith being thankful means you are a true believer and Allah, “God” will give you even more.

But I never felt this very deeply until the revolution in my country started. And then the revolution turned into a war.

It was then that I really began to understand how to be thankful for everything.

I graduated from high school in 2014. I used to have to study by candlelight because the electricity would only come on for one or two hours a day. I felt really thankful for having candles. There were others who could not afford them.

Then a bomb fell on the elementary school – for no damn reason. I thought that the next day no one would send their children to school. But, actually, most of them did. I could hear some parents saying:


“Thank God no one died.”

“Take care, my love.”

They were really thankful.


I saw a video of a father who had lost his three children, wife and house. And he was sitting on his knees, crying and giving thanks.

Some people will interpret this as an act of religion. But, religion aside, this approach to life is well known in many very different religions and cultures.

The latest modern version of thankfulness was presented in the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, which was really successful and focused on being thankful in order to have a better life.

Does it really work? Being thankful?

I wondered. In my country, I would hear things like “Ach, thank God that the house was destroyed but my family is okay” or “I have lost my arm but I still can see,” or “I live with three other families in one house but at least I don’t live in a tent.” And some people in tents have said that they are very thankful that they are almost safe.

I remember the day when I bought a little ring from a German shop here in Hamm. It only cost one euro, but I felt so thankful that I could do something like this. I am just thankful that I am alive – even though life sucks sometimes.

Being thankful does not mean you are okay. Not at all. And it does not mean that you don’t need more. But it does give you strength.

My brother was in the hospital two days ago. I cried really hard because I was scared that something would happen to him. It was not a serious illness and everything went really well. I remembered all the sick kids around the world and am just thankful that my brother is not one of them.


But being thankful does not mean you do not allow yourself to express sadness – or that you need to accept the current situation when you have the ability to change it. Being thankful simply means that you pay more attention to the good things so your heart will give you the strength to go on in this hard world.

I hate that my family is separated. I hate that my brother doesn’t see my father very often. That I am a refugee. That I lost love even though I gave all my heart. That all the people I love are living in other countries. That my eyes are sick. That new people are occupying my country for very stupid reasons. That I lost years during which I should have been in another place…

I am really angry that I can’t do anything for the children who are dying now for no damn reason. I cannot delete this intense anger. But if I give it free rein, I will become sick and just another angry victim. So no.

My eyes are weak but I can still see.

My family is separated. I can do nothing about this so I thank God that I still can see them and fight with them and love them.

I thank God that I am in a house here now, not in a tent.

I thank God that I lost that love.

I thank God that I had that one euro to come to the library and write this piece.

I thank God that there are people who are sacrificing their own lives just to save others.

I thank God for the health we have, for this clean water we can drink.

For a while, I felt like I didn’t really deserve to be in a house or have a family. That I didn’t even deserve to be at university.

But I have learned to count my blessings now. To be able to go on.

I am thankful for being in this world, which is full of monsters but also full of people who are trying to give to others. I am really thankful for this opportunity to be a part of Kiron. Being grateful makes me feel that I also want to give something, just like the people with white helmets in Syria. Just like the people who are running Kiron. Just like the unknown people who do kind things all around the world – on both a large and small scale.

I thank God with all my heart that I still have hands. The ability to understand how lucky you are will lead to one of two results: Either you will feel as though you do not deserve it, which will lead to depression, or it will give you more strength to use your gratitude to bring lucky moments to others as well.

I am thankful right now. I am also angry sometimes. I hate some situations and curse them as well. But I also have this deep feeling that there are some things we can’t change, some nasty, ugly things. But I have to say thanks for all the good things. For all the lovely people and their magical touch. I will continue to be thankful for a smile from a stranger and will try to do something about the things I can change. And then I will be thankful for having been able to make that change.