by Ken Sehested
Gratitude is surely among the precious few,
truly-renewable energy sources available. The
hearts of both giver and receiver grow larger
in the process. Saying thanks, especially beyond
the demands of simple etiquette, is among the
most accessible violence-reduction strategies.
It is quite possible, of course, that expressing
gratitude simply masks the desire to get in
line for future favors. Or fends off the
possibility that one is now in debt to the
donor. Or is simply a disguised form of
doing business (as in gratuities—tips—to
those who serve us). “Free” market values
have managed to commodify even our
most noble human values. Freedom language
has morphed into a cover for savagery.
If you only give for what you hope to
get out of it, do you think that’s charity?
The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
(Luke 6:32, The Message)
Genuine gratitude, on the other hand,
disentangles us from such compulsory
and stingy calculations. It stems
from the recognition that
all good and perfect gifts
come from above (James 1:17),
which is to say: Good gifts do not
originate with us and are not in our
control. We are custodians, not customers.
Giving thanks frees us from the deadly
habits of hoarding. It acknowledges that
all living—whether breath or blood or
water or spirit—must flow, must not
be dammed up, to be enriched.
Thus the appropriate response to
graciousness is to be gracious. Just as
surely as water runs downhill, so, too,
is gratuitous life oriented to the margin,
in the direction of those who lack the
capacity to reciprocate in kind.
When such gratitude abounds, life remains
fertile. When it does not, soil becomes
dust, available to every passing wind,
choking lung and lake and landscape.
I have endured such winds as a
West Texas child.
They made my nose bleed.
To give thanks is to live thanks.
All living is rooted in giving.
Such is the ecology of the Spirit.
©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Inspired by Luke 6:32, The Message; James 1:17.