Wednesday, February 21, 2007

November: Gratitude I

by Troy Chapman

(published November 06)

November is, appropriately, a time to remember gratitude. It’s already the month of Thanksgiving in America but unfortunately, Thanksgiving as a holiday has been commercialized to the point that it has little connection any more to the act of giving thanks.

Yet even here in prison there is so much to be thankful for. I’m alive and fairly healthy; I’m loved by many good people; and every day I’m nourished by food that rises up out of our good planet.

Still, I find myself taking it all for granted, thinking about what I don’t have, or imagining various ways things might be taken from me. My mind is like a child that needs to be reminded to say “Thank you” over and over again until thanks giving becomes a spiritual habit. But it’s worth the effort because gratitude enriches me and ingratitude is a form of poverty.

As such, I find that giving thanks makes me less hungry. This is true literally with food but also metaphorically with life. I just finished work and looked through my cupboards (actually a metal wall locker) for something to tide me over ’til lunch. We haven’t gone to store yet so my cupboards, like Mother Hubbard’s, are a little bare. I ended up eating some saltines and two slices of American cheese. As I was eating I remembered to be grateful for this humble fare. I appreciated it by thinking about where it comes from and remembering that something was given up by another part of creation — animal, plant and earth — so I could have it. It was a gift and so I slowed down to savor it… and it became sufficient, even plenty.

This morning I had a similar experience on a broader level. I woke up with a feeling of anxiety that was trying to tip over into irritability. At first I just clenched my spiritual teeth as I sat there in the predawn darkness and sipped my first cup of coffee. Then I remembered my commitment to gratitude this month and began writing a prayer of thanks giving. My angst — a form of spiritual hunger — abated as the energy of thankfulness pushed out the energy of “not enough.”

Here’s my prayer:

Dear God,

Today, make my breathing and the beating of my heart a thank-you. Help me remember to be glad I’m here. Remind me throughout the day to say thank you as I meet you in all your disguises, to know that you always come bearing gifts if I’m willing to look inside the many packages I think of as “other.” Today, give me the eyes of a child.

Sincerely, your forgetful friend.

This is my prayer for November. I think I’ll make a copy of it and carry it around with me. I’ll say it at least once a day and try to remember to practice thanks giving this month.