Radical Gratitude

There is one line from Faith Connections’ Theology on Tap on May 26 that keeps coming back to me: “I am enough, just as I am.” Mary Jo Leddy reminded us of this, saying that we need to remember this in the face of increasingly materialistic society, which tempts us to always desire more: a bigger car, a nicer house, a better paying job. She has noticed that so often this materialism leads us to equate both our happiness and self-worth with the things we have. Therefore, unless we have the latest and greatest, we cannot be happy and we aren’t worth anything. According to Mary Jo, when we practice radical gratitude, we can begin to accept that we are enough, just as we are right now, and that our self-worth is not tied to what we have.

For a lot of people, including myself, this requires a change in how we relate to both society and our stuff. Mary Jo suggested that the practice of radical gratitude requires us to set up counter-cultural communities with ‘like-spirited’ people. These communities would like and work within wider society, but with a different value system, one which says that the human person has an inherent dignity and needs to be valued as such, regardless of their material possessions. How do you set up such communities?

Every answer is going to be different. For me, it’s about finding alternatives. When society says that at the beginning of every season I need new clothes, I look in my closet and suddenly can’t find anything to wear. This spring, instead of running to my favourite mall, I gathered up the clothes I wasn’t wearing but were still in good shape, and had a clothing swap with my friends. I left the swap with a bag full of new-to-me clothes that I love wearing. I got the feeling of have new clothes, but in a way that shared resources and affirmed each person’s natural beauty and unique sense of style. Was it community building? Yes. Expressing gratitude for my friends? For sure. Counter-cultural? Definitely!

— by Lauren van Vliet