You might say that there’s not a lot to be thankful for in these times … and you may well be right, but the other week I was listening to the poet Ross Gay talk about a project that he had set himself last year … to write an essay every day on something which gave him delight.
I wonder what brings you delight? Here are just a few thoughts that occurred to me:
- Finding my keys when I thought they were lost – and that’s just this morning’s delight!
- Jumping into a pile of crisp autumn leaves and relishing the crispy crunchy textured sound of the leaves underfoot. I still do this when no one’s looking!
- Watching a small baby sleeping, arms thrown back in abandonment, totally secure in the care of their parents.
- The smell of fresh coffee brewing in the morning, especially when I haven’t got up to make it.
- The sound of lots of post being delivered!
- Hearing the whole-hearted, totally abandoned laughter of children.
Rather than being a self-indulgent, romantic, ‘head in the clouds’ kind of pursuit, Ross talks of delight and gratitude as essential practices in these times of anxiety and threat. How can we be joyful at a time like this? How can we not be, he writes?
If there was ever a festival for relishing the delights of our world it’s Harvest. As I write this, we have just celebrated Harvest in our churches. Harvest is a time of what Ross calls unabashed gratitude for all of life’s abundant gifts. Don’t you just love that phrase? Unabashed delight!
Some years ago, I recall a teacher in a local school questioning whether harvest was relevant to children in these times. Her question got me thinking. The harvests of my childhood, churches full of produce, a cornucopia of delights for all the senses, seem to have taken place in a different era when life was simpler and less anxiety provoking. But what has harvest to offer us today in a time when the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing daily, when we seem more bothered about what divides us as a nation than what unites and holds together, and this rich and abundantly vibrant world is being threatened in ways that seem beyond our control and influence.
My reflections this week have led me to the realisation that harvest isn’t something to get sentimental or romantically nostalgic about. Harvest meets head on the less palatable truths of this world and invites us to engage with a powerfully subversive celebration that undermines and challenges some of the less than life giving human tendencies that many hold responsible for the state of the world today. Harvest has roots that go back to the beginnings of our faith. The Harvests celebrated by the ancient Israelites helped them to remember that the whole of the earth is God and that God longs for us to live in to and out of the recognition that he has poured his abundant blessings into the world. All that we have, all that we are is pure gift, and these gifts are to be celebrated and shared and valued.
Living with unabashed gratitude in our hearts means cherishing our world, a world which has been gifted to us by an abundantly generous God, and doing all that we can to safeguard its future; it means being willing to share what I have so that others have enough. And it can mean embracing a simple practice of waking each day and reflecting on what brings you delight … and sharing some of the joy and appreciation with those around.