On this national holiday in the United States devoted to giving thanks, I offer a series of meditations on gratitude. I begin with a portion of one of my favorite poems from fellow Anglican John Donne:
'No Man is an Island'
No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624)
Gratitude - Family of Birth
There is no such thing as self-made men or women. All of us are here because of Others whose gifts to our lives, both positive and negative, helped make us who we are. On this day of gratitude, let us remember our Families of Birth.
They are the ones who gave you your genetic material that started you on your way. The ones who insured you had enough food, clothing, medical care, shelter and security to survive to adulthood.
They are the ones who taught you and modeled many of the values you now call your own. The ones whose imperfections as adults used to seem so huge and obvious until you became an adult and realized that it is precisely those imperfections that help make us human. The ones who held great hopes for our lives, both the unrealized aspirations of their own lives as well as the light they saw glowing in you that needed encouragement and support.
They are the siblings and cousins who shared your journey, the aunts, uncles and grandparents who played starring roles in your life. And now they include your own children in whom the cycle has begun once again.
For whom among your Family of Birth would you give thanks this day of gratitude?
Gratitude – Family of Choice
There is no such thing as self-made men or women. All of us are here because of Others whose gifts to our lives, both positive and negative, helped make us who we are. On this day of gratitude, let us remember our Families of Choice.
They are the ones who shared your life journey through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. They are the ones with whom you shared your deepest secrets, the ones with whom you did the things you were told not to do and prayed you wouldn’t get caught. They are the ones who suddenly came unbidden and unexpected into your life and everything changed in that moment. They are the ones with whom you have studied, worked, played and made love.
They are the ones whose dry, absorbent shoulders you always found awaiting your tears in times of loss and tragedy. They are the ones who have shared that one extra glass of wine with you as well as the pounding hangover the next morning when you celebrated life’s little victories and all were had by a good time. They are the ones who have forgiven you when you did not deserve forgiveness and those to whom you have returned that favor. And they are the ones whose holes in your life can never be filled when they eventually must leave.
For whom among your Family of Choice would you give thanks this day of gratitude?
Gratitude – Life Companions
There is no such thing as self-made men or women. All of us are here because of Others whose gifts to our lives, both positive and negative, helped make us who we are. On this day of gratitude, let us remember our Life Companions.
To our lovers, soul mates, partners, spouses. To those with whom we waited a lifetime before being able to legally say I do and to those whose vows were exchanged with as little effort as an application, a fee and the repetition of the words at the notary public’s office.
To our children, both the fruit of our own wombs as well as those whom life brought to us to love and changed us forever. To our non-human children, our dogs, cats, horses, and the wide range of living beings who have made our lives worth living and reminded us that love, devotion and compassion transcend the bounds of living species. To the trees that have shaded us, the flowers that have brought us joy, to the gardens we have nurtured and whose care in turn provided the means to nurture our own souls.
For whom among your Life Companions would you give thanks this day of gratitude?
Gratitude – Life Matrix
There is no such thing as self-made men or women. All of us are here because of Others whose gifts to our lives, both positive and negative, helped make us who we are. On this day of gratitude, let us remember all those within the matrix in which our lives have developed.
They are the ones who taught us in our schools, who cared for us when we were ill and set our arms when we broke them. They are the ones who keep our homes and streets safe and who insure that we have lighting and internet. They are the ones who work long hours at menial tasks to insure our toll booths, entertainment outlets, big box stores and fast food outlets are available to us in these lives of privilege we lead.
They are our clergy, counselors, our fire fighters, our farmers. They are our bus and truck drivers, our wait staff at restaurants, our banking staff and our garbage collectors. They are our soldiers and our political leaders, when they actually lead. They are our friends and the neighbors we actually know.
For whom among those within our shared Life Matrix would you give thanks this day of gratitude?
Gratitude – the Good Creation
There is no such thing as self-made men or women. All of us are here because of Others whose gifts to our lives, both positive and negative, helped make us who we are. On this day of gratitude, let us remember the Good Creation, this fragile Earth our island home.
The parameters of life on this planet are limited and precious. Slight variations in carbon or nitrogen content in our air and most current life forms on this planet would die. It is a bountiful creation, with enough natural resources to feed all living beings on the planet even as some starve because of human greed and collective choices. It is a place of striking beauty from the deserts of the Gobi to the windswept Faroe Islands to the rapidly disappearing rainforests, the lungs of the Earth, along the Amazon.
Whatever or whoever caused this place to come into being, if anything, is worthy of our deepest gratitude. More importantly, the Creation we call home is worthy of our responsible care that takes into consideration all of its living beings.
How would you show your gratitude this day for the Good Creation we too often take for granted but without which we could not exist?
Gratitude – Conclusion
For all those lives who have touched my life, molding me, encouraging me, weeping because of me, for those who have comforted me, disciplined me, disappointed me, yet loved me despite my worst behaviors and for those whose time with me was all too brief before they had to leave me, I give thanks this day.
For the Good Creation of which I am a part but only a part, I give thanks this day and I pray that I and my fellow human animals will learn to treat you with the respect you are due. And to the G_d whom I experience as the very ground of my being and my constant companion, the G-d from whom all Being arises and to whom all Being returns, I offer my deepest gratitude.
And now, I invite you to do the same.
Harry Scott Coverston
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.
For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d? (Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures)
© Harry Coverston 2017