Today is Thanksgiving and on one level, like everything that we once held dear and accepted unquestionably, this also is a day tainted by the true history of its origin and the real story of Squanto. We should learn that story and consider it and learn from it.
But none of that need cancel the deeper spirit behind a day of thanks nor diminish a lifetime of pleasure in gathering around the table with family, with all the joy and dysfunction surrounding us. Understanding history’s horrors need not throw us down into cynical despair, but rather lift us up to the future that heals and walks toward fulfillment of our extraordinary promise and possibility of living together with grace and gratitude.
In sharing today’s reflection on that very theme, I think about the three rules of right speech I wrote about earlier this month.
1. Does it need to be said?
Yes, indeed, as we are starved for reminders that the bounty of life is within our reach and the proper response is always humble thanks.
2. Does it need to be said now?
Well, really every day, but especially on Thanksgiving!
3. Does it need to be said by me?
Only if I can’t find someone who says it better. And I have. So I’ll step to the side and borrow Michael Meade’s essay on Gratitude and Grace. Happy Thanksgiving!
Gratitude, once known as “the parent of all virtues,” is essentially connected to the natural nobility of the human soul. The word gratitude comes from the old root “gratia,” that also gives us grace. Like grace, gratitude cannot be measured; such things exist in the human heart and soul as part of all that remains immeasurable in this world.
Gratitude involves a stirring in our souls in which we feel and can express being thankful for the gift of life in its many forms. When we forget that life is a gift and that each person arrives here already gifted and worthy of our respect; then the world becomes a darker, more isolating and unforgiving place.
Gratitude and grace are each connected to the hidden abundance of life. Grace reminds us of the divine realm that is always nearby; while feeling gratitude reconnects us to the living pulse of the natural world and the underlying wholeness of life. Even a small sense of gratefulness can generate a feeling of inner abundance and wholeness. Yet, finding a true sense of grace requires that we be open and vulnerable.
We are most human and most alive when we allow ourselves to be touched by both the beauty and the suffering of the world. We need to feel that life, despite all the current divisions and acts of hate and violence, remains holy and that healing remains possible.
In times of trouble and uncertainty we need occasions of grace and gratitude, however small they might be, in order to rekindle our spirits and ease our souls. Becoming grateful, even if only for a moment, can make us feel whole again and bring a little more grace to the world.