Friday, November 20, 2009

A little Thanks-giving

I heard a line in a song once that said "You get what you give." It seems that it is part of the natural order of things to focus on being humbly grateful for all the gifts we have been given. Why is it then that we get taken back when someone outside our immediate family expresses their gratitude for something we may have done or said?

I was touched by Dan who took me to dinner the other night. You see Dan was a professor of mine over 30 years ago in graduate school. Even though he was the only professor to give me "B" grades, the rest being "A's" , I was convinced that I would stay connected forever with this part time mentor . I admired the depth and substance of his intellect , his ability to connect with others and of course his sense of humor . Yet, before I knew it the minutes turned to hours and hours to days and suddenly years had gone by and our connection was gone.

According to Dan it was a magical unexplainable accident that we reconnected just a few years ago after so much time apart. I try to explain to him that it was divine intervention that brought us back together .That is when our friendly debate commences about a higher power. That's a subject for another post.

When we reconnected he was retired from education and said he felt bored . So, I introduced him to a few folks at a college where I had been teaching, saying to the administration "If you want a real experienced and effective professor and administrator , hire Dan." They did.

Over the past few years we have been colleagues again enjoying a few laughs. He now always enjoys a place at our dinner table , especially around the holidays. My family is not sure if we adopted him or vice versa. But the tenor of the relationship was slightly altered again just weeks ago when our new family member informed us that he was diagnosed with Leukemia.This diagnosis came only months after Dan's first wife passed suddenly from cancer. Yet, there would be good news and it was that his cancer is treatable with the prognosis that it would eventually go into remission. The bad news is that the treatment method of chemotherapy is not a very pleasant experience.

These days I try to call him each morning to see how he is doing and we still have a few laughs. I have also tried to pinch hit for him when he is not physically up to teaching his classes. It was a delightful surprise when he called to invite me out to dinner the other night . He treated and he shared with me how grateful he is for our reconnecting.He also thanked me for introducing him to the college, helping him out when he can't find the energy to teach and for our continued friendship.His gratitude was genuine and quite moving. I really didn't expect to get emotional but I did....sort of. We laughed a lot. Laughing can be a cover for how we really feel. I think this is accurate for all of us "manly-men."

I never dreamed that I would be a recipient of gratitude or at least expect that I would receive thanks from someone who has taught me much and assisted me in my own formation.

Of course I am delighted when my family expresses their thanks to me and I am moved by their continued unconditional love.I am just humbled by the gift of their presence in my life.
They are gift to this undeserved pilgrim. I don't think I thank them or God enough.

So this is my way of saying "thanks" for all those who have given me so much and my way of encouraging anyone who reads this to say "thank you" to everyone who has given a part of their life to you.

May you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving !

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
- M. Eckhart

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

- A. Schweitzer

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
- G.K. Chesterton

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"
- W. A. Ward

My Help, My Hope Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to you

my help, my hope

the heavens (who could imagine?)

the earth (only our Lord)

the infinite starry spaces

the world's teeming breadth

All this. I lift my eyes

-upstart, delighted-

and I praise.

-Daniel Berrigan SJ


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