“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.”
(Hausa Proverb From Nigeria)
“For all that has been – Thanks!
For all that shall be – Yes!”
I have just returned from Brisbane celebrating my mother’s 90th year. Mother is very frail and the last hoorah feels imminent. Yet for a whole week of celebratory lunches she rallied, enjoyed champagne and revelled in the company of the family and friends who came to honour her for she is the last of 17!
At the first lunch I invited my oldest first cousins who quite frankly aren’t spring chickens either. At the end of the luncheon I asked each of us to give to Mum a gratitude gift – what they gratefully treasure about her presence in their lives. All of them spoke of the wonderful recipes and dinners that she gave them over the many years. From me, I spoke of ‘integrity’ and how Mum inspired me to do what felt right and good no matter what. This value remains a cornerstone for my whole life.
‘Gratitude’ from the root ‘gratia’, means a gift freely given, unearned. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk offers a deeper understanding– “the inner gesture of giving meaning to our life by receiving life as a gift.” I was surprised that a table of mature, well off, highly educated people came up with a ‘material worth’ for my mother’s presence in their lives. Maybe it was the embarrassment of being put on the spot, for I’m sure her value to them has been much much more than great food!
Cultivation of gratitude is ‘a habit of the heart’ (Alexis de Tocqueville) which helps build within us a grateful disposition and engenders other virtues, in particular generosity. My other key reason for returning to my home town was to deeply thank all the carers who, on a daily basis, generously give of their hearts and do all the demanding and difficult tasks of looking after Mum and so many others. I also spent much time with my nephews and niece and spoke with them of their grandmother’s virtues and life. They are now at that age where they can hear and see how ‘the good, true and beautiful’ within them has been gifted from virtues and values of previous generations. This Spring may we notice the small and the big, the near and far, the people and the environments that inspire us and nurture that flowering in our lives. Thank you all.