Tis the season to focus on gratitude and giving thanks. Much has been written about both and each are magnified in the month of November. I would be curious to see a study about how often the word gratitude is used in given year. I am sure its use is doubled, if not tripled, in this one month alone. Of course, this is a wonderful thing! Gratitude changes us. Countless studies show how gratitude is good for us. I only wish we could remember this better in our daily lives all year round. If you want to learn more, you can find many resources, practices, and write ups about gratitude from one of my favorite on-line magazines – the Greater Good Science Center.
This is also the season we hear stories about the history of Thanksgiving. Typically, we have been given one version of this story, but the reality is that the roots of Thanksgiving are as diverse as the people who tell the stories. The more ways we hear the story told, the richer the history becomes, inevitably leaving us with a greater understanding of who we are today. So, Thanksgiving can become an opportunity for us to lift up the varied stories of our lives, the lives of those who have lived here before us, and continue to live here today. Perhaps, with this in mind, we might take a little time to listen to some recovered stories today. If you decide to visit the previous link, consider the role of gratitude in this storytelling. If you’d rather take inspiration to listen to the stories of those around your dinner table or next to you in line at a grocery store, the exercise in diversity and gratitude is the same. As we listen to these stories, pay attention to the thread of gratitude woven through each, whether named or not. What do these stories tell us about who we are, collectively? What do they say about who we might become? Pay attention to the ways you may be inspired to name who and what you are grateful for after hearing each other’s stories.
Our gratitude is also an opportunity to acknowledge the spaces we inhabit. Can you name all of the spaces that you consider yours? How much of that is shared space? How many of those places are on land that existed thousands of years before you ever stepped foot on it? Taking time to notice our relationship with space and land is another way to connect to all that is God’s. It is also a time to recognize those who cared for the land before us and the ways they continue to teach us how to be in relationship with the space we inhabit.
In an exercise of gratitude, consider giving a land acknowledgement before your next gathered meal and prayer. When you do this, you will join the commitment made by the ELCA in its document, “A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to American Indian and Alaska Native People,” to formally acknowledge the original inhabitants of North America. The declaration states, “We commit to begin the practice of land acknowledgments at all expressions of the church.” As we know, church is not just a place we go on Sunday, but who we are in the world. Of course, our gathered meals count as expressions of the church! Visit https://www.elca.org/Indigenous to learn more about the Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations in the ELCA, as well as download a land acknowledgement guide, which includes further resources that you might find helpful.
No matter how many of these suggestions you practice today, take a minute to consider your relationship with gratitude. Give it an opportunity to shift your perspective so that you may be even more fully present with the people, food, land, and space you are part of today. Breathe the breath of God and know that it is good.