saying thanks in the dark


    After a day full of thanks and food, I sat down to write and was found, once more, by one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, W. S. Merwin. (Thanks, Christine.)


    with the night falling we are saying thank you
    we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
    we are running out of the glass rooms
    with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
    and say thank you
    we are standing by the water looking out
    in different directions

    back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
    after funerals we are saying thank you
    after the news of the dead
    whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
    in a culture up to its chin in shame
    living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

    over telephones we are saying thank you
    in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
    remembering wars and the police at the back door
    and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

    in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
    with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
    unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

    with the animals dying around us
    our lost feelings we are saying thank you
    with the forests falling faster than the minutes
    of our lives we are saying thank you
    with the words going out like cells of a brain
    with the cities growing over us like the earth
    we are saying thank you faster and faster
    with nobody listening we are saying thank you
    we are saying thank you and waving
    dark though it is.

    Reading the poem again – particularly that last two lines – has brought me to a new conclusion: the opposite of fear is not courage, but gratitude. We are most fully human when we are most deeply grateful.

    One of our Thanksgiving traditions is to go around the table before we eat and each offer something for which we are thankful. My friend Terry, who plays harmonica on my Christmas story, said he learned again this year how much joy and sorrow are connected and was thankful to be living in the middle of them. Everyone around our table was acquainted with grief, as I’m sure was true wherever meals were shared today. Sorrow and sadness are ubiquitous in our world. Therefore, if Terry is right (and I’m betting he is), joy is just as far reaching. We, then, are left with a choice: we can look into the night, dark though it is, and wonder what is coming next to get us or we can look up at the stars shining in the dark and say, “Thank you.” And it’s a choice we have to make again and again, broadcasting our gratitude in every direction, thanking God and thanking one another.

    May we be those who choose to say thank you and wave, dark though it is.