For the past several Sundays (like since early November) when I ask the kids what they learned in church school, the answer has been “something about gratitude I think?” For weeks. Like, either they are pushing the Thanksgiving theme HARD or the lesson plans for the end of the year were all “just make it work, survival is key.” Not sure. Either way, I love hearing this big word come out of my little boys’ mouths. Gratitude. Roll it around.
According to the all knowing and powerful internet, gratitude became a word sometime in the 1400s, a time when explorers set sail for new worlds not knowing what they’d find but setting us on a course we have yet to correct. The dictionary links “gratitude” to medieval english meaning “thankfulness” and as a distant cousin of “grace.” What a slight of hand: gratitude talked about in a season of thanks on a holiday that “celebrates” a narrative of peaceful exchange of wisdom and skills, when really the history is brutal and the land bears the scars that prove it. Gratitude. English is the language of double meanings and undercurrents.
The word gratitude is on my mind this morning as I sit in a home with heat, blankets piled on and the coffee hot. Animals and kids splayed around various surfaces, snuggled for body warmth. Younger boy whining for “eggies” (I still can’t correct this baby term cause it’s one of our last remaining sweet baby-isms and he might go to college saying it, but I’m ok with this) and knowing that I was able to get to the store last night and buy supplies for a freezing day in. I am thinking of my neighbors in this state that is Christian to the core but bottom on the list in basic human rights. I am thinking of my neighbors for whom food, heat, gas in the car and warm coats are choices to make, options to weigh when cashing in a paycheck. I am thinking of warming centers and hoping people can get to them.
I am also excited that my little southern children, who were born in NYC but raised squarely in this corridor of palm trees, warm breezes and surf, will see snow flakes on their own front yard. That their sweet little boy wonder will ring across the cul-de-sac today as we celebrate this most rare occasion and possibly play in actual snow without having to travel to it.
Gratitude, like so many gifts, is not free. There are absolutely strings attached because in my gratitude I know that there is the chance of being without; if I am grateful, it’s because I know there’s the possibility that this could not be. There but for the grace (gratitude’s distant cousin) go I. I cannot know warm without also knowing cold, light without also knowing dark, love without also knowing loss.
In a just world, “gratitude” would go away or shape shift; we’d need a new meaning because we’ve all reached a place where heat on a cold day is not a consideration.
I believe that church teaches our babies about gratitude over and over, early and often so that they too start to know this lesson, this great dichotomy. It’s a hard fall from the garden of eden of childhood where the ego rules and mommy’s too slow to make “eggies” is today’s great hardship, and while I’d like to bubble wrap them in blankets and hot cocoa, my knowing gratitude/grace does not allow it.
Try to find gratitude in what life brings you today, be it screaming children cooped up too long indoors, a peaceful snowfall backlit by Netflix, answering work email from your couch or a warming center with open doors.
Note: I am writing this very early in the day and so please remind me of this morning wisdom when the witching hour hits this PM and I am gnashing my teeth at the heavens wishing it was late enough for bedtime for children who are too old to merely “tuck in.”
May the force be with you, friends. Grace and peace. And blankets. ❤