“Thank you” is often the very first phrase we are taught that does not have to do with what we want or need! Those two words affirm an awareness of the fact that there is an “other” – a relationship through which we benefit. They signal an appreciation of our interdependence and strengthen the bonds that unite us (especially when offered freely and sincerely).
Learning how to receive someone’s thanks can be challenging, but just as moving an experience. It can draw attention to the big and small ways that we impact one another. The learned ritual of gratitude expressed and received points to fundamental truths of which we all need to be reminded. As such, “thank you” should be considered a sacred act of communion! Along those lines, thirteenth century Christian mystic, Meister Ekhardt, wrote that if the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was “thank you” – that would suffice.
The religious belief that thanks should be prayed to God is a common one. But it’s also one that can be troubling for those who question or deny the existence of a Creator. So how might one connect with and and express gratitude for life’s goodness (when it can’t be attributed to a particular person we can thank) in a way that doesn’t compromise religious integrity?
Clearly our joy can be beautifully expressed through spoken words, written words or those that are sung. Some of the worlds most poignant poetry and music were inspired by gratitude. Connecting with gratitude daily at meal-times can be a powerful reminder of all the unseen forces by which we are nurtured and sustained. Gratitude can also be expressed through generous acts of kindness and compassion; by serving as an ally to those (human and non-human) who might otherwise feel very alone.
As we move into Autumn, celebrating Thanksgiving through focus on the ways we are enriched by family and community, I encourage you to consider the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s Guest at Your Table program and one of the the Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds an ideal way to signal your appreciation for the fundamental truth of interdependence.
In Awe & Gratitude, Rev. Stefanie