Thank you. Just thank you.
”My work is loving the world…” Mary Oliver begins her poem, “Messenger.” It is worth looking up for a Thanksgiving reflection.
There is too much “prosperity” religion these days that makes Christianity sound like the twin sister of Capitalism. It will lead to a lot of table prayers tomorrow that sound like an itemized invoice of gratitude for things gotten and achieved, as if God and the cosmos are transactional — you do this and you’ll get that.
Prosperity gratitude gives thanks for what it gets, but living gratefully does not promise we will get the house or car we want. Living gratefully doesn’t promise that our loving the world will result in our getting the job, or fame, or even the love we want. Rather, if our first work is “loving the world” then the rest of that stuff — whether we get it or not — will not matter quite so much.
“My work is loving the world” is a metaphor for grateful living, almost opposite of how we live life most of the time. We get, then are grateful. But living gratefully means we are grateful first, before and independent of what we get.
Still, even though we live it backwards most of the time, now and again we have moments of genius in which we are grateful first, then live. When that happens, we feel different inside. We open up and see the lilies of the field — as if for the first time. We open up and taste or smell our food and are amazed at how wonderful it is. We open up and the colors of the world all around pop as if our cataracts have melted. We open up and tears fill our eyes because we love someone so darn much.
You know what I am talking about. When we are grateful then live, the goodness of even very small things fills us with appreciation — and then the things that seemed so big, so important, suddenly seem less so. This does not mean we should deny the bad stuff we are not grateful for. But when we live gratefully rather than transactionally, then even the stuff begins to feel different. Not better. Not good. But a little smaller. Gratitude surrounds and cushions us a little from hard knocks. Prosperity gratitude is rooted in getting what we want, and so it sours when we are unsatiated. But when living gratefully, instead of life as a matrix of transactions, then both the good and bad shrink into perspective.
I bet you know someone who is grateful first, then lives. He or she does such good work loving the world that their gratitude is not rooted in the things they get but in their loving. If you know someone like that, you know how great it is to be around them. Just being in their presence can feel healing. They inspires us also, in the moment, to be grateful like that. Living gratefully will change how people experience us as well as our experience of life.
So my prayer will be, “Thank you. Just thank you.” With that, Rabia and I wish you a peace-filled Thanksgiving.