“We give thanks …”
These are the first words of a pre-meal blessing that my wife and I have practiced for some 25 years, seeking to acknowledge the gifts of every day. They seem particularly relevant this week as America celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday.
We give thanks “for the rising of the sun.” Every day is a blessing. Whether we see the sun rising or not, it marks another day of our lives. We have learned from sad experience that life is fragile and can change instantaneously. No one promised another tomorrow, but here it is.
“For the great rising of life, the beauty and bounty of Mother Earth.” We live on this magnificent planet. It is a mere “pale blue dot” in the vastness of the universe, but it teems with an incredibly complex tapestry of living organisms that gave rise to and continues to sustain humankind.
“For this day together in Durango.” We have been blessed with more than 30 years together, more than 18 of them here, a community of extraordinary riches in natural endowment and the fruits of human effort. We also acknowledge that we live in the United States of America, a nation of great wealth of resources and industrious people, with a democratic government that has provided stability and freedom for nearly 250 years.
“For family and friends,” the individuals who have provided nurture and companionship in the many communities that hosted each of us throughout our lives.
“For our home,” a house that provides shelter for us every day. We see in it a blessing that unfortunately some of our Durango neighbors lack.
“For Black Bart,” the cat who was born in Wyoming and moved cross-country with us twice, providing companionship and more. He was a cat, so affection came and went, but he was a loving presence in our family for some 19 years.
“For all of our loved ones,” members of our family and “found family,” whom we name specifically on days that mark anniversaries of their births or deaths. We especially acknowledge the parents who provided stable loving homes, as well as opportunities and support for the educations that enriched our lives.
“For the food we have to eat.” Our gratitude practice began with acknowledgment that, unlike our agricultural or hunter-gatherer forebears, we grow or gather very little of our own food. Like them, we are grateful for the bounty provided by other species.
“For all the creatures, great and small, who contributed to our sustenance.” We acknowledge the microorganisms and small creatures that provide fertility in the soil, which in turn grows plants that we eat or nourish animals that come to our table as meat or fish; all the humans who grow, move, process, deliver and sell food, as well as those to take away our residues (mostly to recycling or composting, but some to the landfill); and more microorganisms that convert the residues back into nutrients for another cycle of life.
Then, “We ask the spirits of the food to nourish us and sustain us.” Although we do not practice formal religion, we acknowledge sacredness in the bounty of “Mother Earth” that has come to us.
Finally, “we ask the spirits to bear compassion and joy into the world.” Suffering is an inescapable reality of the human condition, but we humans have extraordinary emotional range. It seems no accident that strong feelings of joy and sadness alike evoke tears.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, may the blessings of love and joy and gratitude for them extend to all in this community and beyond.