The poem below, Thanksgiving, is by a young woman Annie (Kat) Reece, who died recently from the damage her long-time eating disorder had caused to her organs. She was my daughter’s best friend all through her childhood and a frequent guest in our house. She was intelligent, creative, and loving, but in the end, helpless against that mysterious monster behind anorexia and bulimia.
The poem below, though, is not about any of that. It was a poem of thanksgiving in spite of all that. When I read this poem it struck me that only someone who was in the grip of a deep spiritual experience could see the world in this way.
At her memorial service, I learned that Annie was particularly fond of a passage from the English mystic Julian of Norwich, which reads: “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Dame Julian also suffered from a severe illness her whole life, yet is the author of these lines which may be the most optimistic ever articulated in the English language.
The quality of our reality is highly dependent on the attitude we bring to it. If we regard the world as a place of scarcity and meanness, we will live in a mean, scarce world regardless of where we live and what we own. If we regard it as a place of love and abundance, we will live in a loving and abundant world, regardless of where we are and what we own.
Annie’s poem is probably not great literature, but it is a wonderful expression of the world seen from a perspective of love and generosity, from a perspective of thanksgiving.
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a day set aside for the giving of thanks. But I say that as much as possible every day should be a day of thanksgiving. In her last evening alive, Annie composed a wonderful thank you to all the people she knew and loved. If a person dying from organ failure can still be thankful, do we not all have something to be thankful for?
I think the lesson of this poem is, be thankful for what you have and whatever you have will be enough.
Today I love this house with its
mismatched windowpanes, stained
wallpaper, carpenter ants and termites
and the pipes that ice every winter.
I love the ten million
untranslatable sounds my cats
wedge under my bedroom door
like Valentines, love the pat of their pink
tongues nursing dripping faucets.
I love the hawk-eyed neighbors,
love their checkered flannel
hunting caps, their growling
Yorkshire Terrier whose paws claw the dirt
when he sees me. Today I love
the frigid mornings, love the bus
driver’s solid calloused hands, love
the smell of a stranger’s e-cigarette
as he exhales into the wind.
Today I love every child who passes
sidestepping cracks in the pavement,
love to imagine the feel of their small hands, warm and smooth
and good as cocoa and their shy
occasional smiles. Today I love every
mother so much I can feel the mislaid
shards of my heart resurrecting,
though this is also their love.
Today my love is universal, a love
that encompasses even my own body.
A love that understands God, because
even a love that needs nothing
needs something to love. This
is a love that reckons the whole world
over. A love that calls all things
by name. A love that pronounces
each name like Beloved.
And each name also means thank you.
And each name also means you are enough.
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