If you have the technology to listen to or read meditations such this you are among the most privileged people ever to have walked on the face of the earth and among the most privileged people alive today. T
”Life is not a problem. It is a miracle, a gift, a teaching, a celebration. Thanksgiving acknowledges the miracle of life – It says that we live in a world of beautifully interacting thankfulness” – Daphne Rose Kingma
So what have we to be thankful for today?
If we take a moment to think back on countless thousands of years of human history, it is hard to find what might be accurately called “the good old days” for the average woman or man in the street. Life might have been bearable for the few people at the top. But even kings, queens, emperors and persons whose every wish was obeyed would stand in awe at the opportunities with which anyone reading this is blessed today.
Cynthia Ozick tells us ”We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
So let’s take a little time out for reflection on all the good things with which we are surrounded and which, in the hurry of our busy lives, we may have failed to notice.
Think of people, talents, good fortune, reasonable health, sufficient belongings. Just look around, pause, think.
So here we are, surrounded by so many reasons for contentment in a world which is still so unequally divided. This thought will and should unsettle us. Meditation is not a comfortable sit on a cushion for a lucky minority living in a world which, for them, is a world of plenty. Meditation helps us to see things as they really are and sometimes what we see is a need for action to put things right. In Buddhism, the term you find is “engaged Buddhism”. Engaged Buddhism calls us to look at how we spend our lives and how our lives have an effect on others. You don’t need to be a Buddhist in order to see this idea arising as the consequence of reflection.
Let’s think about the ways in which we might help to make this world a better place. How can we live so that our lives will have made some little difference? Can we live a life that might leave the world a little better than we found it?
This does not mean running for political office (perhaps it does for some!) but it does mean all of us looking at our daily choices. How can we share what we have in talents or in material goods with the less well off? Can we offer people an opportunity to get on their feet? Can we think about what we buy, how far has it travelled and what about the working condition of those who toil, in sometimes awful circumstances, so that we can have what we want when we go out to buy?
The call is not that you or I should change the world but that you and I can each change our own world.
We each just have to make a difference to the life of even one person.
It is like that vary familiar story about the boy on the shore rescuing a starfish. There are multiple versions of this story floating around but the original idea comes from “The Star Thrower” published in 1969 by Loren Eiseley.
This is one of the variations:
Early one morning, a man was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and he found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that the boy was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. As the boy came closer the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves.” The young man continued “When the sun gets high, they will die unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said to the old man “It made a difference to that one!”
So we should never doubt our ability to make a difference.
And never forget that our good fortune and the gratitude that follows from it urges us to make that difference.
Never doubt that every ordinary person, people just like you and me, can make that difference.
A closing thought, like our opening reflection, is also from Daphne Rose Kingma.
“Saying “you’re welcome” affirms that we live in a world awash with treasures, with miracles and blessings, that we are blessed with an endless array of people, moments, experiences, surprises, magic, curiosities, and beautiful coincidences to which our only delighted, ecstatic, and unchanging response should be thanksgiving.”
May each of our lives be filled with endless reasons for gratitude and may gratitude inspire us to make a difference to the people around us.
Tony – Dublin 8th September 2016