To Recognize, To RespondOctober 24th, 2013
This past week a young family with children moved into a neighboring empty farm house. I stopped by twice to introduce myself and see how they were doing. Each time the husband, a former U.S. airman, told me “THANK YOU for welcoming us! Thank you for telling the other neighbors we are here. We’ve never had anyone care before.”
His response gave me pause – for two reasons. First, of course, that no one had ever bothered to recognize and acknowledge that something / someone new was happening in their neighborhood. The second was that he was grateful for my actions, and actually told me so. Wow!
By chance, the gospel a few Sundays ago was about the gratitude (or NOT!) of the ten lepers healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). By chance, I taught this past week about the value of gratitude as taught by Church spiritual masters, and how scientists are now discovering that grateful people are the happiest and healthiest. How cool is that?!
When I think about this more though, two thoughts pop out . First, in the gospel, only 10% of those healed recognized that they WERE healed. Secondly, only that one leper bothered to respond, to seek out Jesus and express his gratitude.
Recognition…gratitude…response. It seems so simple, this three- step process, yet is it really? How well do we really do this in our own lives, even with each other? As my new neighbor’s example and my own experience tells me, pretty darn lousy, for sure! And if we can’t recognize and respond to gifts given us by each other, those tangible people made in God’s image who stand right in front of us, imagine how we treat God, who we don’t see!
Why is this so? Many will claim they are “too busy,” that life gets in the way. Ironic, isn’t it, when our life is sustained by those (especially The One) who we neglect to recognize, respond to and thank! All too often we take their presence, their support, their good work for granted.
My own suspicion is that the insidious sin of pride is another cause. To recognize the gifts of another, to give thanks and affirm this, is to become vulnerable, to acknowledge that – WHOOPS – maybe we have imperfections! Maybe you have talents I don’t! Maybe we don’t have absolute control over our own lives. Maybe we really do need each other. Maybe we need God. How humbling. How wonderful!
For myself, I have discovered after three years as a regional staff of one working without assigned assistance, response and gratitude is huge. I thank God, truly, for those parishioners who help me plan, who arrive early to start the coffee and arrange spaces, who stay late to clean, who bring cookies, who run copies, who respond to emails and show up.
My gratitude overflows to those who, in the place of Jesus, give me hugs when desperately needed, who think to affirm and say “thanks”…. who heal me….because I sure recognize that I need help and healing. For sure.