My French Ancestor – My Peripatetic Heritage

Historically my family has wandered all over the globe.

It was the mother of all journeys. A Dutch merchant fleet set out on a lengthy and heart-in-the-throat trip to the tip of Africa. From there it was on to Asia to load up with spices and other luxury goods that were all the rage in Europe. That voyage required all the courage and stamina that a 19-year-old Frenchman could muster. On occasion nearly a third of the fleet could be lost as the tiny ships ploughed through the fierce storms of the Atlantic Ocean. After a harrowing journey surviving the threat of pirates, scurvy, and unending seasickness the ships came in sight of the Cape of Good Hope. According to tradition the first person who sighted the famed flat top Table Mountain was give a silver coin by the captain of his ship.

There is a back-story to this mid-sixteen century adventure of my ancestor Louis Fourie. The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) was looking for a few good young men to send to its business at the tip of Africa. In fact the Cape was not a colony but a business venture. Strong bodied workers were needed to work the land to provide supplies for its ships to and from India.

Louis Fourie my mother’s namesake from several generations ago, signed up for what he thought was the deal to beat all deals. It was the adventure of his life. 

The terms: A free trip on one of the DEIC’s ships to South Africa and 100 acres of land that would become his own. The small print in the contract was that he had to work the land for five years and not return home early. This was an offer that he could not refuse.

Louis was not Dutch but a refugee from France where his family was from the French Huguenot community. They were under severe persecution by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. These Calvinist Protestants lives had become so unbearable that tens of thousands had fled to various parts of the world. 

At first Louis, my many times over great grandfather, migrated to Holland where he found a warm reception for his particular brand of Protestantism. But he was a man without a country with no real roots in this religiously hospitable country. So when a friend told him of the offer from the DEIC of a new life at the other end of the world in Africa, he found it hard to resist the call to a new adventure.

But the trip was no cakewalk. For several weeks he succumbed to many bouts sickness. He seemed to spend endless moments with his head over the ship’s rail “feeding the fish” with throw up. He also discovered that there was very little drinking water on board. The hardened crew discovered from experience that wine kept better than water on the long trip. Also because of its vitamin C content it held the dreaded scurvy at bay. So Luis drank a lot of wine on that trip.

Then came the grand finale of his trip. The Cape of Storms so named by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias who rounded it in the year 1488. Years later it was name the Cape of Good Hope by King John II of Portugal as a marketing ploy. He wanted sailors to view the journey as a good omen in that India with its spice riches could be reached by sea from Europe. This geographic point was at the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This location was a dreaded part of any trip even amongst the most seasoned seamen because of its frequent heavy storms. Many a ship had sunk and the bodies of its crew were forever buried in what was named “Davy Jones Locker”. But Louis escaped that fate. After landing in the Dutch Cape Colony he was given a warm reception by the then Governor Jan Van Riebeeck and his French wife. 

Louis eventually assimilated into the South African culture because of his Calvinist roots and strong work ethic. But unfortunately some persecution continued as he was forced to speak Dutch and not French by the governing authorities in the Cape. That Dutch evolved into Afrikaans. This was the mother tongue of my mother Elma Fourie.

Within a year of landing in the Cape Colony Louis moved to his new home seventy-five kilometers from the main Colony. That location eventually became known as Franschhoek (French Corner). Today the town is the center of a thriving wine industry. Here his hundred acres of scrub-covered land took a couple of back breaking years to clear before he could even plant the crops. But like another South African many years later Desmond Tutu, Louis was a “Prisoner of Hope”. 

Maybe his spirit of optimism was sustained by a belief in the divine will contained in his Calvinist religion. The people of this faith tradition saw themselves as part of some providential plan. They designated themselves as children of the Covenant. That agreement between them and the Almighty was that they were chosen for a special mission in South Africa. Louis could recall the many times his Predikant (Dutch for minister) would give a sermon based on the ancient Hebrew text

And I will establish a covenant between me and thee….and I will give unto thee, and unto thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.

His church viewed its white followers as chosen by God. They appropriated this ancient promise to the Israelites and applied it to themselves. 

White superiority was also sustained by the caste system set up by an ancient Biblical story. Blacks were viewed as the descendants of Noah’s son Ham. The story goes that after the Great Flood Noah planted a vineyard and produced wine. One day in a drunken stupor he fell asleep naked in his tent. His son happened on the scene and saw his naked father. When Noah awoke and realized what Ham had seen he cursed Ham’s son Canaan. The Scriptures declare “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers”.

In her book “Caste” Isabel Wilkerson writes “The story of Ham’s discovery of Noah’s nakedness would pass down through the millennia..the biblical passage would be summoned to condemn the children of Ham and to justify the kidnap and enslavement of millions of human beings, and the violence against them”

And the children of Ham were black.

And in relationship to the indigenous population of South Africa Louis my line of ancestry were incontrovertibly children of the Covenant. 

This man-made God-rationalized tradition became the roots of the future Apartheid racist political system. Whites viewed themselves as elevated to be the rulers of the black skinned people who, according to the Dutch interpretation of the Bible, were cursed by god 

Therefore you shall be under a curse, and your race shall always be hewers of wood, and carriers of water unto the house of my God. And now ye are cursed, and ye shall never cease to be bondmen, and hewers of wood, and drawers of water for the house of my God.

There was nothing like divine permission to encourage folks oppress another ethnic group. Just like the USA under President Polk in the 19th Century defined racism and expansionism in terms of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, so too the Children of the Covenant saw it as their destiny to be rulers in a land that was theirs by occupation. Herein lay the roots of my sense of white superiority and entitlement that persists today in the USA. I assiduously fight this racial bias today.

Another part of that Divine plan (most things were framed in those terms) was when he met and married Suzanne Cordier with whom he had ten children. After her death he married Anne Jourdaan and had eleven children with her. Such was my ancestry line in South Africa. I just discovered recently through a genetic test that I have 2% black blood coursing through my veins. I wonder what that story is all about?

My family trip from South Africa to the USA in the early 1970’s was a breeze compared to that of Louis. We had 18 hours of flying time and a minor inconvenience of being stranded at Heathrow airport due to a TWA labor strike.  I lost my wallet with passport and credit cards at a phone booth (returned by the airport staff) and our biggest hassle was managing two squirmy toddlers. However, the reality was that we were still migrants and descendants of migrants. There are very few natives in this world. It seems like we are either always leaving one place or arriving in another.

None of us have reliable crystal balls. We plan, guess, hope but in the end, all of our leavings put us in the position where we are today, living with a series of new beginnings.

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The Dawning of a New Year – Choosing Hope Over Despair

 

The dawning of hope

I prefer to live in hope rather than despair.

Not that I ignore the deep pain we are passing through. Like everyone I have experienced the Year of Covid and political turmoil as a challenge. With serious illness on many fronts in my family, old friends dying, and huge divisions and the pandemic in our world it is easy to be distressed.

But instead of falling into a downward spiral I can choose to view my circumstances as either 

A death rattle or the birth pangs of new possibilities.

I choose hope over despair based on a deep-seated conviction that

The future, however, is finer than any past. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind

Despite all my misgivings I know in my bones that there is a unifying and loving Presence, impossible to describe and difficult to deny in the universe. It connects us to all creation and each other.

With that foundation of hope my wife and I sat down on New Year’s day and rehearsed our hopes for the next year. We did not resurrect the usual suspects that make their way into most resolutions. We did not discuss exercising more, losing weight, and reading more books. 

Instead we discussed hope-based intentions. Now a few days later these intentions are beginning to bear fruit. As the saying goes “When the student is ready the teacher appears”

Go inward on a daily basis to the place of silence. Here I will listen to my heart rather than my head for the voice of the inner unifying and loving Presence. First we attend to the whisper. Then we take action.

Look for more opportunities to make what the late John Lewis calls “good trouble”. Here I will use my gifts to mentor, write, and go outward into my world seeking causes of peace and justice. Old connections and new people come into my life on a weekly basis. This convinces me of the truth of synchronicity. For instance the other night I had a dream about some of my former students. The next day one of them reached out to me.

Develop my intuitive and gut level ways of knowing. The next day I listened to a taped session that Kris had with a spiritual director 25 years ago. He intuited that g-d would bring someone into her life to deepen her own spiritual journey and affirm her to the depths of her being. That session occurred two months before we met. Listening with the heart is my new aspiration.

Discard useless emotions like resentment and bitterness. Find a path through forgiveness. Two days later I had a conversation with a person where I had carried deep hurt for thirty years. I was able to tell her that I carried no malice in my heart towards her and affirmed her for her contribution in my life.

What hopes do you have for your new year that emerges from your inner silent place?

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Dealing with Differences – Balancing Truth and Love

It’s no great revelation that the USA is highly divided. Each side claims to have the truth and contradicts the other. The protests across the great divide are intended to persuade and convert. This is the case in every area of life.

In the era when I practiced as a psychologist people who came for marriage counseling were often in a power struggle. Each party tried to explain how the other was the source of the problem, tried to get me to take sides, and then requested that I put the other right.

How then does one navigate cultural, political, religious, and personal divides?

My take on a balanced life is that you live your own truth and act from a place of love.

Live Your Own Truth

It takes maturity, courage, and experience to find and live one’s own truth. This in part is shaped by our personality (e.g. do you have a strong drive for justice or have you separated from your parents and children in healthy ways?), culture (e.g. have you evaluated your cultural conditioning and come to your own conclusions?), and do you have the inner courage and community support to stand by your values and convictions.

Act From a Place of Love

“Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Know that the truth always leads to love and the perpetuation of peace.” – John Lewis

The older I get the more I attempt to be a loving person. This is not a snap especially if others are intractability different. The love quest requires a high degree of self-awareness and advanced empathy. We need to see beyond our resistance to the heart of that person/situation. Can we step back from our ego-driven inclination to be right, control, and change things? 

We never influence others when we ridicule and humiliate them. I have a few people in my life that come from different parts of the religious, political, and personality spectrum. However being a loving person does not mean that we shy away from stating our position with conviction. Not does it mean that we step back from refuting the opposite point of view. But love does regulate how we treat others. At all times we seek common ground and behave in compassionate ways.

I recognize that diversity of thought and culture can lead to greater creativity. But when the conflict becomes political (not necessarily along party lines) or personality clashes (controlling types against pleasers), some of these people can rub one the wrong way and jam up the works.

What then? It is helpful to ask,

“How can I be a loving person in this instance?”

“How can this person/situation be embraced as my teacher?”

“What in my history causes me to react so strongly?”

“How can I see the true essence of this individual?”

As we seek to change ourselves rather than trying to control or convert others then we begin to see love in action.

My New Year wish for all of us

May the light of truth shine through us

And may we see others through the eyes of love

And may we all act for peace and justice

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Being Seen – A Reflection on the Movie “The Painter and the Thief”

We all need to be seen. 

A person I know asked her partner of fifty years “What is it about me that you really like?” Unfortunately he took too long to reply. Ultimately he blurted out “I like what you do for me”.

Was that all there was to this lifelong relationship where everything was about him and nothing about her except for her service to him?

In the must-view documentary movie “The Painter and the Thief” director Benjamin Ree tells the story of how Barbora Kysilkova, a Czech artist, had two of her paintings stolen from a gallery in Oslo. The drug addict and petty-thief Karl-Bertil Nordland is arrested for the crime. In a court scene the artist asks Karl whether he would permit her to paint his portrait. Later after the relationship had become more intimate she reveals the painting to him. He bursts into tears. Movie reviewer Robert Hanks writes 

At a time so rich in instant image-making and instant judgment, how extraordinary to know that someone has paid you such real, deep attention and that nevertheless they have not swiped left; you are not rejected. 

Being deeply known is the greatest of human gifts. Unfortunately many live in hiding from others and ultimately from themselves. In so doing they remain undiscovered and harbor feelings of alienation and rejection. 

Lonely people often live around clueless people. The “me, me, me” syndrome excludes us to the point that it renders us invisible. 

So why does being seen bring us to tears? 

In the movie, the artist did not view Karl as a drug addicted petty thief. She saw deep into his soul and the painting reflected his true personhood. Also in discovering him she uncovered her true self. We do well to see others beyond their limitations, job performance, diagnosis, and in the case of Karl, his criminal record

The right set of circumstances provide the ground in which the seed of our personhood grows and thrives. We experience our true selves through the eyes of others who show curiosity about us, accept our foibles, celebrate our strengths, and are vulnerable in return.

To be seen it to be known. That’s enough to make anyone cry and then grow into the best self.

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Restraining Quick Trigger Finger Judgments – A New Year Course Correction

You notice the “look”. 

Either you or someone else raises an eyebrow, wags a finger, or mutters “tut-tut”. Worse still blurts out (or thinks) something derogatory. 

Putting it bluntly, words of judgment pop up more easily than an accepting heart. 

You are not perceived to be part of the “in” crowd. You belong to the wrong political party. You have a same sex marriage. You are on the bottom rung of the caste system (i.e. black). Or as in the novel “The Queen’s Gambit” the prejudice is that girls cannot be champion chess players.

In all cases these are examples of a “them/us” mentality.

We all like to think that we are above this.

But are we really that evolved?

I was challenged by an opinion piece in today’s NYT by Peter Wehner “The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ”. He points out that he chose his followers from the wrong crowd, touched lepers, talked with woman, had some of his harshest words for the religious establishment, embraced those who were marginalized, and extended a hand of acceptance to those who had stumbled and fallen. 

So I ask myself, 

“Where am I on the spectrum of acceptance versus judgment?”

 “Do I go beyond saying ‘I’m not racist’ and instead become anti-racist?”

“Do I reflect, “Why are the poor really poor?”

This is not the time for hand wringing but for focused and intentional action. It’s an opportunity to really listen to the stories of the marginalized. It’s an occasion for grace and not judgment.

The New Year, the Covid crisis, and Winter itself are a time for self-reflection and a course correction.

What’s your New Year resolution?

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What’s the Deal On Jesus?

(An excerpt from my memoir at breakframe.wordpress.com)

As we approach the Christmas season I reflect on my changing perspective on Jesus.

He is seen very differently today by many Evangelical Christians than he was experienced 2000 years ago. 

First of all, Jesus was not a Christian. He was solidly Jewish and entrenched in the best of that prophetic tradition. When his early disciples met after his death they told Jesus stories in typical Jewish fashion. He was seen mythically and symbolically. The literal history came years later when Gentiles entered the community of faith. Today much of Christianity continues the practice of a literal interpretation of his life and teachings.

He was also not the blue-eyed blonde Ralph Lauren model type as he is sometimes portrayed. Rather he was a dark-skinned Middle Easterner. 

Most certainly Jesus was not the sole advocate for the wealthy ruling class. In fact, most of his stinging criticism was directed towards this group. He was described in the words of Mary 

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

With thousands of verses in the Bible speaking to our responsibility to the poor why do we cut funds to the homeless, avoid the building of low income housing, turn a blind eye to the millions who are food insecure, resist helping those about to be evicted from their homes, and make Christianity a get rich scheme? 

I studied the life of Jesus for decades, taught classes on his words and deeds, published books on the topic, and was an ordained Evangelical minister.

Today I am more inclined to list myself as a follower of this radical first century teacher. The key to my recently awakened sense of Jesus is to view him through the lens myth which is about deeper truth and not by linear, conceptual forms of language.

Instead of just interpreting the Jesus story as 100% historically accurate (that he actually turned water into wine) I find it more accurate to interpret the story as myth (he takes the ordinary stuff of our lives, water, and transforms it into the extraordinary, wine). 

In his daily reflections Fr. Richard Rohr indicates that authentic spirituality is the antithesis of the cult of the self. It is not about getting, attaining, achieving, performing, or succeeding—all of which tend to pander to the ego. It is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need anyway, although we don’t know that ahead of time.

We too can be awakened to the Christ within. It is in this state that we live out our true or original self. 

Recently I was reading the article by Andrew Boyd “Monotheism at Thirty Thousand Feet” (Sun Magazine May 2020). I realized that in regards to Jesus and listing my religion as “none” I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I needed to revisit that radical and mystical figure again and experience his love in new ways. I resonate with Andrew Boyd who writes

I could approach the Bible stories, to use (Karen) Armstrong’s words, as “symbols of a more elusive truth.” I could try to understand Jesus not as the literal son of God, but as a healer and preacher who stressed his own weak, mortal humanity. Looking through the lens of comparative religion, I could see Jesus as a Jewish bodhisattva — a spiritually gifted hero who was willing to put off his own enlightenment for the sake of others. And through the lens of Latin American liberation theology, I could make common cause with him as a revolutionary and champion of the downtrodden, enjoining us not just to care for the poor, but to ask why the poor are poor.

So right now while I distance myself from much of the Christianity of my past I am being awakened as a follower of this bodhisattva, healer, preacher, and enlightened champion of the poor.

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Letting Go – Moving On

When it comes to the year 2020 most of us have no problems letting go. But at times we hang on to counterproductive ways far too long. In so doing we infect everyone around us including ourselves. We also limit the fulness of living because of our constricted way of being.

Some villagers in Africa were having problems with monkeys stealing their melons.

One resident devised a plan to place several large melons in a field. He then carved a small hole in the thick skin of each pumpkin. He anticipated that the monkeys could slide its hands through the opening and grab the seeds. But the monkey was trapped.

Why? He refused to let go of the seeds.

What do monkeys and pumpkins have to do with our moving on with life in ways big and small?

Here are some possible scenarios where we need to detach from our past.

Forgiving those who have hurt or betrayed us.

The word basically means letting go of the pain. It does not justify what others may have done. Nor does it mean that we ‘forget’ and naively walk into the  buzz saw of abuse all over again. Also it does not necessarily mean that we are reconciled with the person(s). That would be naïve and masochistic. (See my blog on Forgiveness).

Transcending our small and egocentric selves.

I am learning more and more that the value of my person is not attached to my accomplishments or intellectual acuity.

Nor is knowledge (facts and information) the same as wisdom (a different way of seeing the world like inner guidance through intuitive knowing, sometimes called gut knowledge).

We painfully and reluctantly let go of our cherished identities and the false sense that we are superior to or different from others. Instead we humbly admit that when it comes to ultimate issues we don’t know squat. We need something bigger than ourselves to guide our lives. We need the freedom to live in the present. As spiritual teacher Beverly Lanzetta writes

People who are fully present know how to see fully, rightly, and truthfully“.

Letting go of the illusion of control.

One thing we should have learned from the year 2020 is that so much that happens in life is beyond our control. None of us dreamed at the beginning of that year that we would face a pandemic, economic hardship, and a growing experience of the deep racial divide in our world. 

Letting go is a form of surrender especially to the impermanence of life. It helps us recognize that we have far more questions than answers about ultimate matters. That can prompt rare moments of humility. “I give up” is not necessarily admitting defeat. Wisdom comes to us when we are not afraid to open ourselves to the unknown. When we admit ignorance, barriers evaporate and wisdom shows us its face.

Letting go of trying to control everything opens up new space in our lives. In this way we acquire a deepened sense of purpose, more intimate relationships, and the capacity to live more wholeheartedly in the present.

How’s that for a whole new way of living? Ans is this not a more significant new year resolution beyond exercising more and losing weight?

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So You Want To Change?

Written with Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

You are planning to make some changes as you move into the new year.

Some changes we choose. In other cases life chooses for us. Some transitions are welcomed and others we would gladly forgo. But in all cases, to some degree or another, we are different people after the life event.

Fundamental changes often provoke deeper life questions that have no easy answers such as

What opportunity can I find in this climate of change?

What’s most important to me right now?

What is my life’s mission?

Though change is difficult, even painful, it can also be very productive if we keep in mind the following principles:

1. Remain open to other ways of knowing

For a number of years one of the authors taught a class in a business management program on world religious traditions. Many students came to respect that there were other ways of seeing the world.  Some found it difficult to accept other ways of addressing ultimate questions but the ones who did broadened their view of the world and of themselves. An open heart and mind is a key to productive change.

2. Focus on living the questions

Acknowledging that we don’t know the answers and, consequently, living the questions opens the door to discovering true wisdom. People who seek certainty in absolutes often are more interested in security than the pursuit of truth. Also, ironically, “facts” can get in the way of experiencing underlying truth. In this information age where knowledge is everything, life’s deepest questions are better approached with “I don’t or I can’t really know”. Daniel Pink captures this process beautifully when he remarked that when we ask questions, life becomes a dance rather than a wrestling match.

3. Be willing to surrender to the unknown

At times, our moments of greatest opportunity lie in periods of confusion. “I give up” is not necessarily admitting defeat. Wisdom comes to us when we are not afraid to open ourselves to the unknown. When we admit ignorance, barriers evaporate and wisdom shows us its face.

4. Recognize that life “as it is” is not working for us

Maya Angelou once said, in effect, that when there is great pain in front of you as well as behind you, change paths. We always have the power to choose a different way. Habits of the past do not have to be our future destiny.  Some of the more profound changes in life happen when we choose to face (as opposed to escape from) our pain, ultimately leading us to make better choices for ourselves.

5. Remember that times of struggle and fragility can be times of transition and transformation.

Don’t automatically reject life’s darker moments. View them as teachers that introduce us to expanded versions of our selves and greater possibilities. That’s why I love winter as a time for solitude and reflection. Our winter of discontent eventually gives way to spring with new and yet undiscovered life.

Questions

What changes are you being prompted to make right now?
How can the above principles lead you to a more productive outcome?

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Go Imagine – See the Future and Make it Happen

We all develop mental images of what we want for ourselves. Some are fantasies that die on the vine. Other visions of the future are serious intentions based on deep long-standing desires and stellar abilities. We see solutions to challenges that no one has thought of or developed before that meet real world needs. 

One thing that is true of all possibility thinking is that many people don’t just jump in and support us. Recently a research scientist told me “At a meeting in our corporate headquarters last week they brought in a couple of the top scientists who talked about how they created new and astounding technologies. The amazing thing was that they did it in their spare time.” 

We cannot wait for the majority to give us the green light to follow our dreams. There are just too many naysayers out there. Most go it alone or with the support of one or two close friends or associates. Don’t allow the critic in your head nix your creativity..

Is your imagination stimulated to innovate or move in new directions? 

Here are ten practices of effective innovators.

  1. Create a compelling story (imagine a world where) that arises from their imagination.
  2. Invite influential stakeholders to be partners/sponsors in the venture. They tell their story in a way that excites others. Visions are caught not taught.
  3. Persist despite skepticism and opposition. They know the difference between “Know when to quit” and, “Don’t give up too soon!”
  4. Break or at least bend the rules by which others think they should operate.
  5. Show flexibility and a willingness to change course quickly if new circumstances demand such an action.
  6. Allow mistakes to act as course corrections or learning trials.
  7. Estimate the risk accurately.
  8. Launch out on an “adventure of faith” before all the resources are available. 
  9. Remain very clear on the opportunities built into the vision of the future based on clear data.
  10. Use the toothbrush test (A term used at Google to determine the viability of a project or investment). This test answered the question “will people use it at least twice a day and will it have long-term usefulness?”

Go ahead now ignore the naysayers

Imagine, intend, and initiate

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Invite Gratitude to Thanksgiving

This year the Thanksgiving holiday will be different from all other celebrations. But as we shelter in place without friends and family gratitude does not have to be missing in action. 

That is of course if we focus on what we have (the goodness in our lives) not what we have lost (an annual Thanksgiving family gathering).

Most of the time, however, we wander through life with little gratitude. We fail to notice the beauty of the countryside or the kindness of others. We also make the mistake of seeking happiness thinking that it will bring gratitude (unless one lives in Denmark). Studies indicate the opposite. Gratitude brings happiness.

2020 has been a tough year. Many have experienced extreme hardship or suffered profound losses. I see the long food lines in our village, read the letter from a friend who has Covid-19, and remember those who lost their source of employment or business. So I ask myself “how can these folks possibly be grateful?”

Then I recall that people who are filled with gratitude have often experienced extreme hardship or suffered profound losses. For example, you meet many grateful people who are recovering alcoholics. Or those who have found genuine love after enduring years in a loveless relationship. Sometimes it takes the shock of facing the extreme of one’s mortality to experience gratitude. Playwright Dennis Potter (who was dying from cancer) remarked during his last television interview that he was living so intensely in the present that he noticed the beauty in ordinary things that he’d hardly paid attention to before.  He captured this beautifully in his comment: 

The nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous.”

I am reminded that if gratitude is both an attitude as well as an action then I have my marching orders. So buck up buckaroo! When I rise in the morning I can choose an optimistic attitude no matter what challenges face me that day. And when I start to indulge in self-pity I can write that belated thank-you letter, praise those nearest and dearest to me (easier than griping), and meditate on the grace (unmerited favor from outside of myself) that has come my way.

So let’s have an empty seat at our Thanksgiving table for gratitude.

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