Evening Prayer June 4, 2012
Each night, let me dwell upon the cup of blessing that sustains me each day. Each sip turns aside the tide of fearfulness or bitterness, restores me from weariness, is a balm for soul. Thanks for the rain and the sweet drink of water, for the shared generous laughter, for the bird just learning to fly. Thanks for the sparkling stars and the song that shimmers in my soul, inviting me to dance even as I am shackled by pain. Thanks for the goodness too numerous to name, and for the chance to try and name them anyway, the names I know, the strangers, the neighbors, the friends, the family, a multitude of blessings. Each night, I dwell upon the cup of blessing that sustains me and wonder how I might add to and share that cup upon the morrow. Amen.
In the linked Tapestry of Faith session, children are invited to create a gratitude list, to name the people they are grateful for. This is a splendid practice, as it connects us to people we can take for granted. If our list is short, then perhaps we have more to do in reaching out and being a reason for others to be grateful, growing new relationships. If our list is long, then we have many reasons to be thankful.
A follow-up activity I enjoy: focus on one person on your list and write down why you’re thankful for them. If writing is difficult, tell a story, sing your reasons as a song, record some spoken word or signed messages and then share it with that person. If the person you’re grateful for has passed on, share the stories of why with another friend, family member, or spiritual companion.
Do you have expectations from the other when you help someone else? Are you expecting thanks, or particular ways of demonstrating gratitude? Are you seeking a return obligation? Learning to Give shares this Nupe wisdom tale, that asks us to consider what is the duty of gratitude and our relationship with other beings.
Often enough, we can go through our lives seeking most what others can do for us. Economies built on this way of life are extractive or exploitive. All that is valued is what you (or that tree, or this place, or that culture) can be of use to me.
Others of us go through our lives seeking an even deal, on exchanging goods. Economies built on this way of life value everything against everything else. Relative value matters enormously, because we’re always looking for equally beneficial relationships. Giving and receiving is power, and strict equality is sought so no one is more powerful than another, within limits. Extractive and exchange economies often mix together.
But in grace relationships, giving doesn’t have an expected response. We give because folks ask, because it is needed, because we have, at that moment, a cloak, two pennies, or a place to rest. We give from the fullness of life, from the joy of giving. And there is no expected response, no power to be gained or lost in the act of giving or the act of receiving. Interestingly enough, it is easier to be genuinely grateful when we’re not sweating what we owe others or what’s expected or how we might be taken advantage of. It is also easier to be generous.
What way of giving is easiest for you? of receiving? Which do you experience and practice the most? What expectations do you have for gratitude?