Jim (right) with Richard Rohr
A couple of years ago, I loaned Jim a book by my favourite spiritual writer (Richard Rohr) thinking he may appreciate the focus on male spirituality. I don't think either of us could have predicted where that simple gesture would lead. Jim has since gone on to complete the men's program through Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation and is playing an important role in coordinating men's programs here in Canada through Illuman. Illuman is dedicated to transforming men, and through them, communities and families for generations to come. Who knew retirement could be so full?
During a recent grocery store check-out line encounter, I told Jim of *the gratitude project*, knowing that he himself lived a life of gratitude. When I asked if he'd contribute, he immediately said YES - I love it when people immediately say YES!! Thank you my friend...
What Am I Grateful For?
I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God. - Helen Keller
I am showered with so much bounty in my life that the creation of a gratitude list could run the risk of far outrunning the space available to me to write this entry. Truly I am a blessed with much and I am thankful to the God of my understanding for the good in my life. But as I reflect more deeply on the complexity of the notion of gratitude, my meditations take me to ponder two key ideas.
The first is to consider the difference between “being grateful” and “being in a state of gratefulness.” Both are connected but the latter concept allows for so much more depth. For instance a state of gratefulness calls for humility. To be humble is to be grateful.
The second idea captures the notion that one needs to be just as grateful for the negative elements and trials in life as for the positive gifts. A person in a state of gratefulness has learned, through personal trial and deep soul searching, that gratitude goes to greater meaning when one is able to embrace one’s character defects, pains, failures, trials, fears, broken hearts, addictions, guilt, loneliness and acknowledge being grateful for them too. For me, gratitude must include all of those shadow elements that we share by way of our common humanness. It is our failures as well as our successes that form the basis of a spirit of gratefulness. The God of my understanding gives in equal measure.
Prophets and great thinkers through the ages have understood that one of the realities of life, indeed the path to an intimate understanding of true gratitude, must of necessity be tinged with suffering and darkness. To paraphrase Hafiz the poet, to know the light one must be burned in the flame.
It is and has been in the depths of my winters that I have learned that there is in me an invincible summer.
My sincere thanks and gratitude to Jo-Anne for including me in this wonderful initiative.