As I fell back asleep/awoke this morning, I caught the edges of an NPR radio article about Zimbabwe. In my sleepiness, I connected most with wistfulness: in high school, when their democracy was new, I researched them and caught the hope for something stable, a place with a larger blessing for those who live there. (I even served as a representative for Zimbabwe at the Student Model United Nations that year, skin-color irony notwithstanding.) That hope for stability is long crumbled; not long ago Zimbabwe even gave up on a currency of their own. Though Mugabe is now in retirement, the nation struggles.
As I gathered myself out of bed, I replayed a section from my church board meeting last night: a long-time congregant with a deep love for both social justice and for our colleagues in Malawi came to prepare us for an upcoming collegial visit, and spoke respectfully—longingly—of the way gratefulness for God’s smallest gifts was on his friends’ lips from first waking until falling asleep.
As I brushed my teeth, I put my finger on what had troubled me as I listened last night. Gratitude.
I am a fan of “attitude of gratitude,” in part because it ties in with my bias toward observing even the smallest things with thoughtfulness, if not wonder. I find it wiser to acknowledge everything as gift, especially since I’m showered with the extravagant privilege of U.S. upper-middle-class life. I didn’t earn any of this, you see.
Still. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child—as my children did when they were small—there is little gratitude there. Delight, absolutely. Interest and curiosity as well. Playfulness as a part of exploration.
But they never began their days by saying, “Praise be to God, I awoke.” To say that implies one has considered the opposite a possibility—few preschoolers contemplate the fragility of life. Most of them bounce out of bed like the super-balls they are—what are we doing today?! is where they begin.
Parents taken for granted. Breakfast taken for granted. The clothes in their closet taken for granted. With little value judgement, even—these are simple facts like sun, and sky, and ground.
To be consciously grateful is to question. Is to, at some level, worry that the blessing will be withdrawn.
As part of my faith practice, I remind myself that I trust God profoundly. Profound: into the deepest parts, up from the depths. Trust as far as earth’s bedrock, as far as the sun in the sky. As a child of God, I remind myself that—like my little ones—I have earned nothing that God’s given, but I am not asked to. I can take God for granted, and explore in delight, interest, and curiosity.
I can keep a child’s ingratitude, because I can keep a child’s unquestioned love.