Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Gratitudes.

How Much is Enough? I've pondered that question a lot recently. I know people who have surrounded themselves with such excess that they have become used to plenty that would embarrass the rest of us. They don't see the abundance. They truly don't. Conversations with them focus always on what more they need. They don't need a thing, but for them, life will never hold have enough.

I know other people who, until last week, didn't have a place to call home. And these particular people shine with the light of abundance. For them, even when what they have is little, they tithe their thanks. For them, life will always hold enough.

What is enough? Most would describe it as the absence of want. But for many, “want” and “need” are relative terms. We “want” therefore we think we need. Frankly, we don't need most of what we want. During this great recession, there is more true need out there than this country has seen in decades. It's more like the reality that large portions of the world know as life every day.

We were founded as a country because people came here seeking; seeking religious freedom. Seeking opportunity. Seeking adventure. Seeking a new start. And from the first, we found enough. From the start, we were a grateful people. Have we forgotten that?

I've had opportunity recently to research the lifestyle of the first European people to this shore. No, not the pilgrims or Columbus. The Viking settlers of Vinland, who built turf and timber longhouses and scrapped out a living at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland before the year 1,000 AD. Leif Erickson stayed only one winter, but ranged the east coast from Labrador down to(some say) New York Harbor. Gundrid the Far-Traveler, her husband Karlsefni, their infant son and their household spent three years in this strange new world.

It was an indescribably hard life. They came with little and found both want and plenty. It was only after they discovered that the Native Americans were not too pleased to see them that they packed up their dragon ships and returned to Iceland, leaving evidence of their time here in those turf longhouses on that Atlantic shoreline.

What drove them? The same things that the founders of our country articulated hundreds of years later. The same kind of dreams that inspire us now. If we keep our wits about us, we will truly know, down deep in our bones, how blessed we have been. And that deep knowledge can return to us an attitude that is gratitude.

Tomorrow, Americans worldwide share a ceremonious meal of Thanksgiving. Many of us have traveled great distances to be with family – or have telepathy-sent our wishes to loved ones living far away from us. Let's keep our wits about us and remember how far – how very far-- we have come. And remember too that we Americans have – more than enough.

Come Ye, thankful people come, raise the song of harvest-home.
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

“Wits must one have who wanders afar.”

From the Hávamál (Viking Code)
© Jan Johnson Wondra 2009

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