This Thanksgiving, Occupy the World with Gratitude

Excerpted from A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough


What is, for us, for anyone, enough?

Increasingly corrosive disparities between what, and whom, is given value in the world, causes many of us to wonder how best to live as kin, as family, together on the earth.

There are billions of children, families, and communities the world over for whom the issue of enough is not a meditation but a daily challenge to life and death. The way we honestly respond to this question has an undeniable, direct impact on the lives of those children.

When we fear we may not have enough, we hoard more than we need. Twenty-five thousand children lose their lives every day for lack of clean drinking water, food, or inexpensive medicines costing less than a dollar.

Theirs is a life rising well before dawn to walk hours in both directions to fill one unbroken container with enough barely drinkable water; to grow, find, borrow, forage – or, if they are so privileged, buy – enough rice, enough bread to keep their bodies alive one more day; to seek shelter from the elements, shade from the punishing midday sun; to barter, sell something- or someone- to procure whatever medicine or health care required to keep their undernourished, dehydrated children healthy enough to contribute to their family’s daily survival.

For these women, men, children, and grandparents, who open their eyes each morning, the fleeting blessing of blissful sleep dissolves into a sudden stab of remembering where they have been placed on the earth. Enough is a real, concrete, desperately frail thread on which their lives are hung anew every single morning.

I have been taught, held, cared for, fed, sheltered, welcomed, guided, and yes, even loved by these poorest of the poor. I could never help but wonder why any kind or loving God could seem so very, very far away.

Still, having said this one true thing, there is another thing we must know.

It is this: When people in debilitating, soul-crushing poverty do, at the end of the day, feel and know they have enough food, enough shelter, enough water, enough medicine – then, in the most impossibly, ridiculously true very next moment – these very same mothers and grandmothers and children will, invariably, inevitably, impossibly and instantly become generous with whatever small portion of anything they may have left over.

This magnificent generosity of ordinary people has, for almost twenty-five years, helped Bread for the Journey support, uplift, accompany, and believe in those who often have the least to give. Yet every person we have supported has had passion, courage, wisdom and love they give freely and generously. Not one grant recipient has ever received personal, financial compensation from us; they serve because they must.

Almost without exception, each and every one was no more fortunate than those they sought to serve. Philanthropy – rooted in the love of, and among, people – begins closest to the ground. Those who hunger and thirst know best where the fields are most fertile. Those who ache for a just, fair and loving family know better than anyone precisely where the most necessary love, wisdom and grace are buried.

In this season, may the shape of our lives become our most fiercely authentic occupation of the world in which we live, to which we belong. In this season of Thanksgiving, gratitude is one tangible way to fully occupy the family of the earth.  

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