Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Gratitude

Note:  This essay was prepared as a Thanksgiving mailing for Robert S. Jackson, my employer at Oaktree Capital Corp., my day job.  The poem was fist posted in this blog last Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite American holiday.  It is really the only American feast day.  As a harvest festival it calls for a gathering of our families—biological, intentional, accidental—around a common table.  In these busy times it may be the only such gathering of the year.  And it centers around one simple idea—gratitude.
These days the celebration is often marred by sometimes bitter recriminations about the popular origin story—largely mythical, by the way—of Pilgrims and happy Indians.  It is crowded by parades, and pageants, sporting events, and the incessant drumbeat of a Christmas buying orgy in waiting.
Let’s put all of that aside this year, shall we?  Let us concentrate on gratitude.
Gratitude for what?  You name it.  Look around.  But also gratitude for the un-merited blessings we all receive with life itself.  There is a theological term for that—Grace.
But to whom should we be grateful?  Now that’s a thorny question with a lot of different answers.  And when you gather that clan around the table, these days it is likely not everyone will agree.  In fact some gatherings founder into bitterness and recrimination because of it.
But isn’t it possible that the act and expression of gratitude itself is enough?  Enough to acknowledge that some Thing or Things are bigger and greater than ourselves?  Enough to humble ourselves for a moment in acknowledgment?
I have been called to say some words—a prayer if you will—for a table around which were gathered Jews, lapsed and fervent Catholics, serious and blasé Protestants, agnostics and the simply confused.  In short a not untypical extended American family.  This is what I said one year:
A Thanksgiving Prayer for Those Who Don’t Pray

Thanks for the hands.
All of them.
            That dug and scratched,
            reaped and loaded,
            milled and butchered,
            baked and cooked,
            served and scrubbed.

The cracked,
            the bleeding,
                        the blistered hands.

The hands that
hewed and smelted,   
            sawed and hammered,
            wove and sewed,
            put together and took apart.

The  calloused,
            the  greasy,
                        the grimy hands.

The hands that
            wrote and painted,
            plucked and keyed
            carved and created.

The graceful,
            the supple,
                        the nimble hands.

The hands that
            caressed and fondled,
            stroked and petted,
            held and are held,
            grasped and gave,
            played and prayed.

The warm,
            the soft,
                        the forgiving hands.

And today bless even the hands that
            shoved and scourged,
            slapped and smote,
            bound and chained us.

The harsh,
            the hateful,
                        the heavy hands.

Today they cannot still our hands
            from their pleasure and their duty.

The void of anger they create,
            our hands fill with love.

The gentle,
            the clasping,
                        the reaching hands.

I don’t insist on this.  It’s just my take.  I will bow my head in reverent gratitude this year when a God or Gods are called out by name by someone else.  And be grateful for the opportunity.


  1. I like this one. Did you write it, Patrick? I'd have put it into my FB status for today, but it seemed a bit long for that.

    1. Yup, it's one of mine. You can post a link if you like.

  2. That's a prayer if I ever heard one. Many blessings on you, your family, your friends and your words, my friend.