Nov. 25, 2021
In the United States, here we are again, though in a different way from Thanksgiving 2020. Many of us who did not gather with family and friends last year will, thanks to vaccinations, be able to do so this year, and that seems more than enough for all the thanks we can give—to be together, to be alive, to be with those we love. This year, we will gather with new appreciation (I hope) around that table that bears the weight of too much food, more than enough for one sitting, for those of us fortunate enough to have family, friends, a home, health, and food. It is fitting, always, to give thanks.
Our great spiritual ancestors from all traditions stress the importance of giving thanks, particularly in the Psalms, such as Ps. 92:1, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.” The apostle, Paul, advised, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus Christ, when faced with feeding a crowd, “took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd,” (Matt. 15:36). The Buddha taught that gratitude is essential to integrity (ponder that one), while the Dali Lama wrote that, “When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others.” My personal favorite is from the ancient mystic Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Yes, so many of us have so very much for which to be thankful. And yet . . . being thankful is just half of the process of gratitude. The other half of the process is being aware of those who do not have—do not have enough food, do not have affordable housing, do not have equal opportunities/rights, do not have family, do not have a country, do not know they are loved, precious, important. If we only focus on how “blessed” we may be, we lose sight of the human responsibility to act in some way for those who are not. That is why the radical John the Baptist reminded us that if we are fortunate enough (and thankful) to have two coats, we give one away, or as the social worker and activist Dorothy Day said, “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”
Yes, I am grateful for this life, not always an easy life and certainly a journey with twists, turns, obstacles, and challenges, but it is my life, an abundant one, and I say “thank you” to all who have shared it with me in some way, and to the One who called me here. I am also thankful for the awareness that with gratitude and blessings come opportunities to give, to share, to act, to stand up for someone else, to include, to love (“thanks” plus “giving”). What we do with our “thanks giving” is what can change the world.
Blessings ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org