“And you live life with your arms reached out.
Eye to eye when speaking.
Enter rooms with great joy shouts,
happy to be meeting.
bright as yellow.”
~ The Innocence Mission, Bright as Yellow.
Recently, as part of a group of traveling musicians, I shared the joyful experience of welcoming hospitality. The last, and the lengthiest, of these road trips brought me to a small and elegant church in the Berkshires. The enthusiastic welcome actually began with thanks- just as we had all arrived. Our host’s exuberance- expressed at the outset, and not after any results of our presence- was especially touching, phrased as “there will never be enough thank-you’s, so I’ll start right now!” This brimming graciousness was disarmingly earnest and entirely pleasant. Now, in reflection, I can recall when I have either witnessed or felt this kind of abundant, overflowing, and extraordinary gratitude. Such profound expression may be occasional, but its roots are in everyday graces. Manifesting grateful acknowledgments may rest on the surface, with handshakes, written notes, and tokens. Unusual exceptions, such as I’d seen the other day, remind me of something beyond those fine and courteous practices. When a gesture seems closed-ended, we may decide to express our gratitude with our lives. Becoming our gratefulness needn’t necessarily imply overt emotion. More than anything, it is a communicating of this spirit in ways that comprehend the context of wherever we are- silent and festive alike. The depths of our own mysteries are visited, when gratitude overflows to the point that we sense the insufficiency of our words. It’s similar to the impatience we experience when we try to wish away worries or hasten a healing process with our intentions. Willing spirits find creative expressions.
The continuity that follows my desire to express appreciation, more than surface recognition, is the hope to live this gratitude. How do we carry ourselves and move through this world with a conscientious sense of reverence? Advancing from impressions, it is a challenge of faith to set forth from what we initially articulate. Living a spirit of gratitude imposes neither occasion nor space. Among other things, this means exercising myself to understand that which is difficult to accept. Cut loose the old grievances and grudges; shred the catalogues of misdeeds, and delete the read-only migrated files that take away space from the new. Part of the learning is posing the simplest questions, when noticing myself complaining in the face of goodness, asking “what’s good about this?” or “what’s good about today, this person, that job, this situation?” Graciousness may be expressed silently, and if we consider eternity as our goal, the need to be the last word dissipates and thankful intercessions for others will find their expression in our most unseen recesses. A gratefulness to God can be reflected as reverence and respect for all that lives and gives life. As acknowledgment for another person, it is compassion for that person’s sake- and for whom and what they may hold dear. Appreciation is openness and expanse of heart. We can be active witnesses to those who bear witness to us! And we can gratefully accept the unpredictable nature of our responses to graces we daren’t expect.
For the moment, I am very simply grateful for this time and space in which I can write at my warmly-lit desk, while outside the rain and wind pelt and beat upon the windows. As my thoughts turn through the topic of thankfulness, I think immediately of my friends. My companions and mentors are light-bearers along this broadening and humbling pilgrimage, and their influences transcend time. “So great a cloud of witnesses,” expressed so well by the ancient apostle Paul, encompasses us about such that we are freed by their inspiration to rise above all that weighs us down. To his friends in Philippi, he gratefully began his discourse with, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Remembering encouraging souls is a source of assurance. Progress comes through unity, not isolation. When I think of the kindred souls and guiding elders for whom I continually give thanks, there follows the wonder of the gifts of their accompanying presences- through the years and now. Even while writing in silence, I am aware of their company. A way of caring for those dear to me is to profoundly respect their lives, personalities, and memories. Always giving thanks, upon every remembrance.