The gift of gratitude
A beggar sits on a box, just outside the gates of a city. The beggar cannot work and subsists on the charity of passersby. On this day, the beggar receives no handouts. Finally, one person stops, but to the disquiet of the beggar the stranger says that he has nothing to give.
Instead, the stranger asks, “What is that you are sitting on?”
“As you can plainly see,” the beggar replies. “It is just an old box. I found it years ago and have been sitting on it ever since.”
“Have you ever looked inside?” the stranger asks.
“No,” the beggar replies.
Opening the box, the stranger and the beggar find that the “old box” is, in fact, filled with gold coins, a treasure chest with enough gold for the beggar to live out his remaining days with all of his needs satisfied.
When we expect something from outside of us to give us value or worth, or to change us, fix us, or transform us, we will wait, and we will wait, stewing in our discontent (which only isolates us and silences gratitude as we are unable to see the power that is within us).
There is a version of the “box story” in the Gospels. The followers of Jesus expected a Messiah who was eager to kick-a-little-backside and take names later. You know, Messiah as Clint Eastwood, bringing in a kingdom of force and fire, from outside of their world.
That’s when Jesus throws them a curve. Jesus asks, “Have you ever looked inside? The kingdom of heaven is within.”
It is Thanksgiving week, our invitation to pause. I have an idea: let’s look in the box, shall we? To embrace the gift of grace, and the power of gratitude.
True, this moment may be imperfect (even broken or melancholy), but it is still the home for the holy and the sacred, where beauty is alive and well.
Scotoma is selective blindness. I see only what I want to see. So, I look past this dusty box (of myself and this present moment and the kingdom of heaven within), because I anticipate that there is an answer or solution that lies beyond where I am now, and will come from something other than what I bring with me today. So, I give all my energy to pursuing, chasing, (and even) praying for a life that is elsewhere and otherwise.
As we pause this week, I don’t have any great tools to give you. Except this one: Meister Eckert’s advice, “If you can only learn one prayer, make it this one: Thank you.”
Not a bad place to start.
Gratitude does not take away any of the difficult decisions or conundrums of our week. But it sure keeps us from looking in the rear-view mirror or around the next corner.
Gratitude allows us to live this life, and not the one we always figured that we’d trade this one in for.
Gratitude allows us to invest in what we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell in the moment. The sacrament of the present moment.
Gratitude allows us to partake in the joys of the everyday, to see the sacred in the very, very ordinary.
And gratitude helps us see that the sufficiency is not self-sufficiency, but that gratitude sees the connection, as we do indeed walk one another home (Thank you Ram Dass).
When I live from the narrative of scarcity (sitting on the box), I see only what is absent or missing, always on the lookout (sometimes desperate) for something to fill the perceived void. And my anxiety is no surprise; straining and yearning for what is about to arrive and rescue me. Or worrying about what I missed yesterday. Or obsessing about what I still need to acquire to impress some panel of (unseen and unknown) judges, nursing my disconnect from the world around me. After all, what will they think? And I am unable to look inside, to open the box of treasures upon which I am sitting.
I love the story’s reminder that the “stranger” invites the “beggar” to look inside the box. Speaking of charity of passersby… No one of us is on this journey alone, and the extraordinary gifts we can give one another. There are so many in my life who’ve helped me put down my scotoma, and look inside the “box” of gold that I did not see. And I am grateful.
At the 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (1997), Fred Rogers accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award. In his speech he says, “So many people have helped me to come here to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away, and some are even in Heaven. All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.”
What a wonderful Thanksgiving invitation…
A blessed Thanksgiving to all. If you’re able to gather or connect, raise a glass to connection, and remember that pie can be shared with everyone at the table, regardless of whose “team” we are on.
And this week in our Daily Doses we’ll talk about the necessity and gift of gratitude.
Quote for our week…
Let us be grateful
To the people who make us happy,
They are the charming gardeners
Who make our souls blossom.
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, I was powering through my early morning walk with my little dog as I typically do. Half asleep and head down I was on my way home to get ready for work. Not sure why, but I happened to look up and it stopped me in my tracks. I took a deep breath and was uplifted by the sight. I will try to be more aware of the world around me and take the time to stop and look up. Thank you for my weekly Sabbath Moment.” Carl Lindner… Thank you Carl… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Dear Terry, Sabbath Moment pricks, soothes, enlightens, beautifies, invites me into deep appreciation and Thanksgiving. I love the subtle humor. Sister Judy (Sisters of Mercy)
–Dear Terry, I’m so deeply grateful for your Sabbath Moment. During the Pandemic, I was lifted up so many times. Since my retirement two years ago, I’ve received your email with joy. With loving thanks, Marge
–Dear Terry: I love hearing about your Dad. I know an anniversary of death is tough. Thank goodness for fond memories, they make for a soft landing. Thank you again for all of your writings, audio, song, poems…they improve my quality of life. Peace to you, Kim
–Good morning Terry, I loved todays post. I’m recently retired and wondering where and how to put my services to the greater good. Your reference to Mary Oliver’s Gratitude reminded me. Also, to not view this as an assignment. Thank You. I’m attaching a photo I recently took from Emerald Isle NC. A week spent there with dear friends helped me to become grounded and in awe of God’s presence once again. Be well and continue your message. Donna
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
I am surprised sometimes
by the suddenness of November:
beauty abruptly shed
to a common nakedness–
of people I’ve lost.
It is left to those of us
dressed in the hard
barky skin of experience
to insist on a decorum
that rises to the greatness
of a true Thanksgiving.
This is not a game
against a badly scheduled team,
an uneven match on an uneven pitch.
This is Life.
This is Life.
This is Life.
Not politely mumbled phrases,
murmured with a practiced and meticulous earnestness.
Thanksgiving was born a breech-birth,
a screaming appreciation for being alive–
for not being one of the many
who didn’t make it–
who couldn’t moil through
another hardscrabble year
on tubers and scarce fowl.
Thanksgiving is for being you.
There are no thanks without you.
You are the power of hopeful promise;
you are the balky soil turning upon itself;
you are bursting forth in your experience.
You are not the person next to you–
not an image or an expectation.
You are the infinite and eternal you–
blessed, and loved, and consoled
by the utter commonness
and community of our souls.
We cry and we’re held.
We love and we hold.
We are the harvest of God,
to a new thanksgiving.