We live in a society driven by consumption. At this time of year, flyers fill our mailboxes. Advertisements for the latest electronic gadget fill our airwaves. The latest recipes and tools for entertainment call us to have bigger or better parties. We look for more experiences to share with our families and friends.
At a Five Oaks event I participated in, Mary Jo Leddy encouraged us to consider the messages that drive this advertising. “I need more” or “I don’t have enough”. Whether it be a faster computer, an exciting game or a night at the theatre, we are sold that we will be better with these additions.
Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire, was asked how much it would take to be happy. He replied: “Just a little bit more.” It makes you wonder, can we ever have enough? Mary Jo takes this thread a step further, sharing that the “I don’t have enough” leads to a feeling of “I am not enough”, or “I am not good enough”.
When the message shared with us daily, is “I do not have enough”, it can leave us with a general sense of discontent. We wonder, how can we, who have so much compared to others, feel dissatisfied? Mary Jo suggests that this feeling is related to a vague guilt that permeates our society. “How can I be unhappy when I have so much?”
In one of her books, she allows us to see our own country, culture and ourselves, through the eyes of refugees. Here is an excerpt: THE HOUSE FOR A CAR
Hewet, the young Iretrian girl, and I sat at our kitchen table on the back porch the first afternoon she arrived at Romero House. We were having a cup of tea and I enjoyed listening to this teenager practice her English as much as she seemed delighted to describe her long journey to Canada .
Suddenly, she looked out the window that faced onto the back yard and asked “Who live out there?”
I looked out at the old familiar space. It was just a garden variety yard in need of a little time and attention.
“No one lives there.” I replied, “Well, maybe a few birds.”
“No, person live out there!” She was adamant now. “Person there; house there.”
House? I looked out and for the first time I saw the garage for what it was. There was only one reply that I could make and my words fell like stones, one by one. “It’s a house for a car.”
“A house for a car?” She looked at me in disbelief.
Yet many of us have a house for a car, just as we have money for food on our tables, a vacation, a computer to read email. Long gone are the times when we were told to clean our plates, with reference to the starving children in the world. Yet that vague guilt still remains and takes away our ability to be truly grateful for all that is good in our lives.
The idea of radical gratitude is not one of just a simplistic message. The message of saying “it is enough”, is not targeted at those who truly do not have enough. Gratitude is harder to find, when one is worrying where one can sleep to-night, or where your next meal will come from. We are called through the stories of the Gospels to a radical form of justice as well as a radical form of gratitude, of giving love and thanks.
Mary Jo proposes one of the most significant impacts we can make in our lives, is to experience gratitude, in fact, radical gratitude. By reflecting on all that we have, we can begin to be released from all the messages received daily that we are not enough.
Now, you might ask, what is radical gratitude? Radical gratitude is truly giving thanks for the essential elements of who we are. She recommends a morning practice of giving thanks, thanks for the air that you can breathe, the fact that you are alive, the glorious water we use in our morning rituals.
Another step of radical gratitude is to begin a practice of saying “it is enough”. Turning from the consumption/production of religion or judging of quality of events, and turn to a time of gratitude for that which we have experienced.
It is enough that we gathered to worship this morning.
It is enough that we had community and broke bread.
It is enough that a child laughed.
It is enough.
Mary Jo’s books are available at .