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Grace And Gratitude At Thanksgiving

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In a posting elsewhere on Huffington Post, blogger Anne Naylor writes of grace. She lists seven attributes that she believes "can lead toward living more gracefully:"

  1. Surrender to a higher power
  2. Sacrifice and forgive the negative emotions: fear, doubt, anger, resentment, guilt, blame, shame
  3. Cultivate faith and trust
  4. Serve with compassion - give to those who can benefit from you
  5. Be thankful for all of the good you enjoy right now
  6. Be the blessings that you are - keep going
  7. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised - expect the best

 "Grace" comes from the Latin gratia, pleasing quality, good will, gratitude, and is related to praise and celebrate in Latin and Greek. The Greeks and Romans had three sister goddesses, the Graces, who were bestowers of beauty and charm.

On Thanksgiving, even those who rarely do so on ordinary days tend to say grace before the meal. This can range from "rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub, Yaaaay God!" to profound expressions of gratitude, to going around the table with everyone saying something they are thankful for, but in some form even non-believers feel gratitude and since the mid-1800's, we in the US have set aside a day that intentionally has no religious connection to give thanks for our abundance.

To go through Anne's criteria, on Thanksgiving we (1) may or may not relate to a higher power, (2) put aside, at least for a while the negative emotions -- we even eat shamelessly and blamelessly, though guilt is up to you, (3) engage with faith and trust, at least for those around us at the table, (5) are thankful (6) for at least a day, we "are" the blessings we enjoy, and (7) we expect the best.

Note that I've skipped over (4) -- compassion. While some small number of us will serve in soup kitchens or give to help the needy have a Thanksgiving dinner, for most of us that is not a central part of our observance. In my community we collect food for a local hunger organization early in the Fall and around now we start collecting warm clothing for distribution to those who need and can't afford it, but is that what is meant by "Serve with compassion - give to those who can benefit from you?" Note the wording - "those who can benefit from you," not "those who can benefit from your largesse."

I must confess this confounds me. I know how to give stuff to those in need of it -- food, clothing, money -- that's easy. And I know how to give of myself to those I know  -- family, friends, colleagues, even clients, even the occasional stranger who is in obvious need or distress. But how do I give of myself to those who are truly in need, whom I don't know, and whom I don't stumble across. What do they need of me? Where can I find them? How can I ensure that what I give is what they need, not what I think they need or what I'm comfortable giving?

I think that this holiday, rather than dwell on the question of what I am grateful for in my life I will instead consider questions like "am I truly giving?" and "what do I have to give that would make a difference?" What are "the blessings that I am," and how can I be that the other 364 days of the year and with people who are not in my inner circle of trust.

Care to join me?

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