Whew! What a week! I barely saw it pass me by…..How about you?
It is often a challenge for me to pause during the frantic start up days of a new school year. Luckily I was “forced” to slow down this morning as I came to my laptop to consider what to share with you today. What emerged within my heart is how immensely grateful I am for the gentle encouragement I receive by having a weekly “deadline” to share a thought or two each week. This weekly discipline asks that I grapple with how busy I have been and it requires me to breathe deep and get back to basics.
Gratitude is at the heart of a contemplative life. It is also the root of joy as researchers are finding time and again. To live turned towards gratitude is a choice and it frames all of our perceptions, understandings of the world.
Last night I watched a KQED documentary about Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain. It was incredibly interesting, engaging. But the one image I took with me as I fell asleep, and then came back to this morning, was the photo of a woman who made an indelible impact on Samuel Clemens soul - Mary Ann Cord, an ex-slave and cook at Samuel’s summer residence. There is, in her eyes, a deep sense of gratitude, a joy.
This woman’s story, told to Samuel Clemens one summer, broke my heart, and has inspired my spirit.
A mother to seven children, all of her kids were torn away and sold at very young ages. In her story (which Samuel Clemens wrote down word for word) Mary Ann tells about the day they were taken:
“Dey sole my ole man, an' took him away, an' dey begin to sell my chil'en an' take dem away, an' I begin to cry;,’ An' when de las' one was done but my little Henry, I grab' him clost up to my breas' an' I ris up an' says, "You shan't take him away," But my little Henry whisper an' say, "I gwyne to run away, an' den I work an' buy yo' freedom." But dey got him, de men did.”
Mary Ann lost touch with her husband and all her children. Years later, during the Civil War, she was living in North Carolina when black troops fighting for the Union occupied her owner's plantation and asked her to bring them breakfast. Her story continues:
“I was a-stoopin' down by de stove, an' I'd jist got de pan o' hot biscuits in my han' an' was 'bout to raise up, when I see a black face come aroun' under mine, an' de eyes a-lookin' up into mine, an' I jist stopped right dah, an' never budged! Jist gazed, an' gazed, an' de pan begin to tremble, an' all of a sudden I knowed! De pan drop' on de flo' an' I grab his lef' han' an' shove back his sleeve, an' den I goes for his forehead an' push de hair back so, an' "Boy!" I says, "if you ain't my Henry! De Lord God ob heaven be praise!”
What pain this woman experienced in her life! It is unimaginable to me. Yet, in her words and in her photograph, I feel an invitation to gratefulness that is expansive and hopeful. I am humbled. For if she is able to see joy in one reunion with her son then shouldn’t I be able to be thankful for each moment of my very blessed and privileged life.
And so I invite myself, and you too, to pause and spend a moment in thankfulness today. Maybe write down the first 5 things/people you are grateful for that come to mind right now. Or if a visual prompt is helpful, take 3 minutes to watch this lovely video.
Enjoy the invitation to feel joyful!