Seriously. These trees. They are a silent blaze of glory, making no apologies for their lavish, extravagant beauty. Each leaf giving its all. I think my fam-jam has tired of my exclaiming, “Look at those trees!”. “All beauty is gratuitous” says Richard Rohr. The trees have far exceeded their expected 15% gratuity. Could this be their way of giving thanks? If yes, for what do they give thanks? Life?
After a day of harvest, we gathered to give our own thanks on this one day that is designated for gratitude on the calendar. The table was laden with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner fare, and our parents and most of our family had pulled up their chairs. My dressing was praised by both my Mom and my father-in-law. The pumpkin pie made by my daughter would have made my gramma proud. Grandbaby was sucking his toes. All this life, all this love – what more can I ask for?
But what about the Haitian woman who looked with anguished eyes into the camera as she told of loosing everything she had in the hurricane? Was the bowl nestled in cloth that she carried on her head the one thing she could salvage? Did she have a piece of handwork that she had been stitching or a favourite cooking utensil that was swept away in the muddy torrent? What did her days look like before the storm?
The day before Thanksgiving day, we had gathered for another meal, plain and simple, as a way of remembering and giving thanks. As I held that plate with the bread for Eucharist, I felt the sacredness of people and their stories. The man celebrating a new lease on life, the woman clutching the edge of reality in her grief, the boy squishing his bread flat to the annoyance of his sister, the woman who gripped the tiny glass with both hands in an effort to still her shaking and the elderly man next to her who leaned his hand against hers to steady it, the vulnerability of the both the young and the old, all spoke to me of sacred stories meeting at the place of the Story. People pausing in their stories and in spite of their stories to remember and give thanks.
Once again I find myself wrestling with the now and the not yet, feeling my way along the “edge of glory” (Lady Gaga). While I savour the trees and a Thanksgiving dinner with my dearests, I keep needing to learn to be present in the now while holding the not yet in the present too. I look into the faces of the people sitting around my table who mean the world to me, and at the same time, I try to figure out how to be present to my Haitian sister who no longer has a table.
“I only deepen the wounds of the world when I neglect to give thanks.” ~ Ann Voskamp
One of the first things we teach our little ones is to say thank-you. Some little people are even taught to sign it before they can speak it. Saying ‘thank-you’ is simply good manners. To minimize or withhold my thanks in deference to the plight of someone else doesn’t ease their load. Can I be in a place of heartfelt gratitude and make it a place that is not closed off, a place where my eyes are wide open, a place that brims over with generosity? When I think of the Beatitudes, do I have the courage to rethink and redefine what it means to be blessed?
Maybe I need to learn to sign my thanks as it seems that sometimes the words ring hollow. Maybe I’m unaware of how entrenched I really am in the culture around me and need to go back to the rudiments of an invitation to gratitude. Maybe I need to relearn how to mind my manners.
As I continue to put one foot in front of the other, I will keep being awed by the trees, and I try to learn from them how to live in a quiet blaze.
Teacher, teach me how to be a thank-you.