It’s not good to be without any cash during a pandemic lockdown. So, down to my last 20 dollars, I was looking for local help here in Ecuador to get access to the cash I had in my bank account. After a few electronic banking gymnastics, it came through, and someone from the pueblo here was able to take my cash out of his bank account in the next village over.
When he delivered the cash to me, I handed him a $10. He was somewhat offended. “No, I don’t want anything. I just wanted to do a favor for someone who has always been generous and disinterested in their giving here with us.” I said, to him, “It’s fair to receive some compensation for what you’ve done, and I have the ability to pay it. If I didn’t have the ability to pay, I would gladly accept the favor. Now, of course you can do whatever you want with the 10, but if you want to thank me, then here’s one idea: use it for an area of real need in your life or someone else’s.” I guess it made enough sense to him, and he accepted.
See, we can have a external type of gratitude. We can put up blocks to letting gratitude actually enter us. We keep it at the door. For example we are grateful for having property, money, health, work, nature and its resources. But those things aren’t actually *me*. So, maybe we let gratitude take a step closer: we’re thankful for the people we love, our parents, children, spouses, friends, our church or other social group. As wonderful as they are, they are not *me*, either. And we can stop there. When we do, we feel good except for a certain weight that nags in the back of the mind. It’s called the debt of gratitude. We have to pay back the giver for what they’ve given us. And it’s an impossible burden.
But … we *could* let gratitude take one last step. We could be thankful for our hands, our eyes, our ears, our feet. Our heart that beats and our lungs that breathe without our thinking of them. Our tongue and all the capillaries that pass through our skin. Our temperament, intelligence, personality quirks. Our unique life experiences. In short, all the wonderful and amazing complexities of our whole body and soul – our very selves. And in that, we are grateful for who we are. We are the gift. We’ve actually let gratitude *inside* of us.
And there’s something special that happens when gratitude gets all the way inside of us. It amazingly forgives the debt of gratitude, and gives birth to … generosity. We actually become generous like the giver, and so we pay *forward* to others who don’t have. Our generosity resembles that which had been expressed to us, and so, we’ve actually paid back the giver with what is most important: our heart. When we let the shepherd in, then we become part of the sheepfold.
Now more than ever it would be great to have a good shepherd to guide in the midst of so much uncertainty, both personally and collectively. Confusion, doubt, and fear can close us up. So, now may be a good time to listen to the call of gratitude. Let it come closer. Let it in.
Re-discover that you are a gift.
And your generosity will guide the way.
“I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)