The Work of Citizenship/On Gratitude

The Work of Citizenship by Rev. Aaron Payson
(with appreciation for Howard Thurman’s “The Work of Christmas”)

When the last campaign ad has aired;
When polling stations are closed and the count has been certified;
When pundits and politicians have turned in for the night
And pollsters and political operatives are turning their thoughts to the next big race
The work of citizenship remains:

To care more for the marginalized than for profit margins
To be mindful that quality education is far less expensive than mass incarceration
To insist that military intervention is a last resort,
not the preemptive prerogative of the powerful.
In short, to know that our true wealth is the welfare of all beings 
and the planet that we all call home.

November Touchstone Ministry Theme – On Gratitude

After last Sunday’s service a number of people asked for the reading/story on Gratitude with which I opened my reflection.  Below are the words which came in this month’s Touchstone Ministries Worship Packet.  In the days ahead, I hope they again bring you joy and contemplation


Gratitude-Personified by Kate Starr & Rev. Tamara Lebak

Gratitude giggled uncontrollably
as he wiped the melted chocolate
and toasted marshmallows
and graham cracker crumbs
from Vulnerability’s face,
and hands, and elbow, and hair.

The two pulled themselves away
from the warmth of the den’s fire
to walk hand in hand through the darkness toward the nursery;
one jumping with delight,
the other moving along more hesitantly.

Gratitude tucked in all the stuffed animals
so they’d be cozy.
Vulnerability tucked in the bed skirt
so no spiders could crawl up.
Gratitude pulled down the blankets
and fluffed the pillows.
Vulnerability pulled down the shades
and locked the windows.
Gratitude made sure to say prayers
to the great mystery.
Vulnerability made sure to say incantations
to empty the closets of intruders.

“Want me to tell you a story?”
asked Gratitude gleefully,
and Vulnerability nodded, cautiously.
“Once upon a time, there was a hermit
who lived in a cave on a snowy mountain.
People traveled from exotic places
to seek the wisdom of the man
who seemed to hold the key to happiness.

“The first person to call was Suffering,
who made the long journey on feet
wrapped in rags.
What is the key to happiness
when there is so much cruelty and hardship?
Have you ever watched a tree in a storm? A tree does not blame the wind
as it is battered about.
It bends and sways, supported by strong roots.
Become grateful like the tree.
“The next person was Entitlement,
who flew his high-tech helicopter over the mountain
and rappelled down to the mouth of the cave,
What is the key to happiness
when in life we often don’t get what we deserve?
Did you ever hear a muskrat wish he were a mink?
Animals do not waste time
on what could have or should have been.
Learn to be thankful like the muskrat.

“To help make his way through the snowy pass,
Betrayal hired a guide
who abandoned him in the night.
What is the key to happiness
in a world where no one can be trusted?
Does a bird stop whistling
because a cat moves in next door?
No, she sings the tune without words
and never stops at all.
Be like the bird and let blessings perch in your soul.

“Resentment was the last to come.
Blind since birth,
his journey seemed to take a lifetime.
What is the key to happiness
in a world filled with hatred and rage?
Oh my child, I see myself in you.
For I, too, have held bitterness in my heart.
In my youth, I left the world of misery
and disappointment and disloyalty.
But the world found me
and continued to come calling.
After many years of prayer and introspection,
I made the decision to transform my deepest wounds
into my greatest strengths
and to share my experience with others.
You, too, can rewrite your story.”

Vulnerability kissed Gratitude on the head. “Oh my child,” she said.
“You have so much to teach me.”
And she turned to make her way
through the darkness back toward the light.

(Source: Simple Gifts, The All Souls Journal, All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK)