Meister Eckhart once wrote “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.”
I have shared this quote before, and I will likely share it again.
Because it is the truth.
If we are able and willing to say “thank you,” than we have learned one of life’s greatest lessons.
Everything is grace.
The ability to say “thank you” takes humility, a deep recognition that we arrive in this world with nothing, and we will take nothing with us when we leave.
Everything we accrue or accomplish in between is the result of luck, opportunity, generosity of others and/or our own hard work.
And all of these — luck, opportunity, generosity and hard work — are themselves grace.
Those who achieve great things sometimes pat themselves on the back at how hard they have worked for their accomplishments, and don’t have much empathy for those who haven’t reached similar heights.
The reality is, no one achieves anything great without much unearned grace along the way.
Some are born into great wealth, and some are born into great poverty. And there are plenty of examples of both going on to live materially abundant lives, what is seen in the world as “success.”
But that person born into wealth, who probably had opportunities most of us don’t simply by being born into their family, was essentially in the same position as the person born into poverty. Neither one of them had done anything to do with where or to whom they were born.
Being born into wealth is itself a grace, or it can be, if used responsibly and properly.
By the same note, being born into poverty can be a grace, if for no other reason than it makes it easier to recognize all as grace, and can drive people into working hard to achieve their goals.
Regardless of whether someone is born into wealth, or poverty, or anywhere in between, none of us are where we are today strictly by our own doing.
At its most basic, we are not able, by our will, to give ourselves the breath of life that activates countless biological processes necessary to sustain our lives from birth to death.
These processes allow us to learn to move our bodies and use our minds, so that we might study hard and grow in strength, and perhaps, go on to achieve great things.
But, more importantly, no one can claim to be entirely self-made, as every day of our lives and in hundreds, thousands and millions of little ways, we are at the receiving end of someone else’s efforts and hard work.
A few examples:
- Those who labor in fields to plant, cultivate and harvest any number of food and material products so that we can eat and be clothed.
- Those who stock shelves and work at checkouts… and in our electronic age, those who process electronic orders and deliver them to our doors.
- Those who prepare meals for us and those who make our clothes.
- Those who publish books to educate us, and those who go to school to educate us in our classrooms.
- Those who care for us while our parents work or run errands to keep the household flowing efficiently.
- Those who work in any and all manner of utilities, providing gas, electricity, water, so that we can comfortably exist, making it much easier to study hard and grow in strength ourselves.
- Those who provide sanitary services: janitors, housekeepers, laundry staff, garbage pickup…were it not for these folks, we would all be living in constant filth … and get sick.
- Those who provide medical care in any legitimate form. There is not one among us who is breathing today that has not benefited from modern medicine in some way, shape or form.
- Those who study science, who research and discover so much to which we are oblivious, and which assists us in living our best lives.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of examples of the ways we contribute to sustaining and improving each other’s existence.
This week, when you gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday, try to look beyond the typical things for which you are grateful.
Look beyond yourself, and see how we are all interconnected.
Everything is grace.
- SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.