On Halloween I got a text from a friend.
He asked me to consider another side of gratitude.
“What if, ‘be grateful’ is just a scare tactic? What if it’s just something that the few at the top say to keep the struggling down? How many oppressed people do you think have been told to ‘be grateful,’ for the very little they have by the very people who keep them from having more?”
I texted back the first thing that came to mind. The exchange in a very early job interview when the hiring manager tried to convince me that I was a fool to pass up an $8 an hour position in Boston (when I was already pulling down a full-time salary (with benefits) at another station) because breaking into the Boston market was nearly impossible…especially for a girl. He made it clear I should be grateful for the shot.
Halloween fell on a Tuesday this year and the night prior our town was struck by a freak storm that downed multiple tree branches and power lines. Trick-or-Treat got moved to that Friday…and Friday was unseasonably warm. Like so warm I swapped out my costume to accommodate a tank top and fairy wings.
As I stood on our front step, Briggs came out – in his Batman costume – and asked if we could take a picture. I obliged. Then Briggs pulled off his mask.
“Mom, let’s do another one. This time with me as a happy Bruce Wayne.”
He smiled wide. A warm wind wrapped around us. And I felt it.
Later, I texted my friend back.
“Gratitude is real but it has to be felt. Experienced. Tonight before we headed out Trick-or-Treating I was sitting with Briggs and this warm wind kind of held us together and with it came this wave of peace. Gratitude. I get to know this. Warmth. Connection. Mother. Son. The fun of being outdoors at night. The openness of our neighbors. It was all at once and all good. I think we trip up Gratitude when we try to force it. It can’t be forced – on others or ourselves. Even when it’s well intended, reminding (or worse commanding) someone to ‘be grateful,’ when they feel wronged, without or less than isn’t helping. But being present to experience true Gratitude when it arises and being a part of creating that experience for others…that just might actually help. Okay, that’s the best I got on this. ;)”
Last night, as the temperature dropped below zero and we sat down for a hot dinner in a heated home that same wave of gratitude washed over me. Over us. And for the first time in a really long time, we said (and experienced) Grace.