An excerpt from “Gratitude” by Rev. Barbara Merritt in Quest: A Monthly for Religious Liberals, May 2011
…The road to having a grateful heart has to travel a more difficult terrain. As Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, eloquently expressed it: “gratitude emerges from the kingdom of night.” Gratitude is not, in this model, the result of good fortune, happiness or great success. Instead gratitude is a response to life itself. It emerges precisely at the moment when we settle at the farthest limits of the sea—in places and circumstances where we believe that we are unreachable, unsaveable and irredeemable.
…Gratitude is not about the things you do or do not receive. It is about a relationship. We are here on earth, at least partially, to practice empathy, to honor honest work and to ceaselessly embody that central Universalist principle, the dignity and worth of all human beings. This practice of radical equality is measured by the respect with which you treat others, and by the kindness in your heart. And then comes the leap. When you become the giver of kindness you are more likely to become aware of the kindness flowing towards you. You learn gratitude not only for the kindness of those around you, but also for the source of kindness described by the psalmist. Some of us call this source of all life and goodness and love by the name of God. Some of us call the sense of the whole of life a mysterious reality that cannot be named. But there ought not to be disagreement about the response to our current imperfect circumstances.
In the words of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein:
“I don’t believe any of us can enjoy living in this world unless we can accept its imperfection. We must know and admit that we are imperfect, that all other mortals are imperfect, and go on in our own imperfect way, making mistakes and riding out the rough and bewildering, exciting and beautiful storm of life until the day we die.”
In the midst of imperfection we can pray to be given a grateful heart. Grateful for the gift of life. Grateful for the opportunities of this day to come closer to what is real and sustaining.
Reflect upon how you are sharing and experiencing gratitude and kindness in your life.