Friday, June 27, 2008
GRATEFULNESS AND ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
In a few hours, the Sabbath will descend upon us, hovering over our lives with the protective wings of peace and serenity, at least for twenty-four hours.
The week that has passed continues to fill us with the growing worry, even angst, about the economic future of our country, and of the entire world.
How do we remain grateful in the face of a flood of fear about our wellbeing and that of our loved ones? What role can gratefulness play in our lives as we obsess about how we are going to pay our mortgages or rents, our children’s college tuitions, never mind the plans for summer vacations and other expected luxuries of a life lived amidst luxury and the culture of entitlement?
We rage at our government, OPEC, financial speculators, owners of Hummers as fuel costs reach record highs! Pundits speculate and the authority of the Federal Reserve is fraught with doubt and divination! And the average John Doe is scared, going about one’s business as normally as possible, fighting to resist depression and despair.
Mention of gratitude appears like a bad joke, an act of spiteful insensitivity.
And yet, upon closer consideration, perhaps imminent scarcity can help us gain a greater awareness of our spiritual need to understand life precisely from the vantage point of being grateful for what we are and what we have. Perhaps actual abundance erodes our awareness of how precious a gift our lives are, and only a threat to that reality of plenty can awaken in us a new-found recognition of life’s immeasurable wonder and richness.
Passivity and do-nothing acceptance is not what I advocate; every effort should be undertaken to strengthen and bolster our economic lives. But like all challenges, opportunity arises to enhance our inner and spiritual lives at a time of such crisis.
We hope for a continuous improvement in the financial worlds of our society and in all communities around the world. We pray that hunger and thirst be eradicated in our time. We will do whatever we can to help toward that end.
Let gratefulness help ease our anxiety and personal concerns and let our sense of gratitude spur us onward to reach out and share with the many who need so much more than what we have, even at this time of cutting back and self-deprivation.
Let us learn the lesson of our Sages who asked: “Who is rich?” and answered: “He who is gratefully joyful with his portion.”