“Andrea, this time of year is an opportunity to be grateful for the good in your life. What are you grateful for?”
This was the personal interpretation of the questions asked this morning by Michelle Lattanzio, our interim minister. “What are you grateful for, and are you present in that gratitude?” I am going to try to answer that question – going, as I said, because this is not an easy thing to process.
I am grateful for many things – being alive is one. Last year was a black hole of suck when it comes to health. Two major surgeries (one emergency due to a life-threatening gallstone passing), three hospitalizations, and cancer scare (oh my) were more than enough to force a re-evaluation of my priorities and goals. While I still have challenges to face in terms of my health, it’s a challenge I am looking forward to meeting.
I am also grateful for my friends, family, and chosen family. Those people in my life that see me as me, and not who I used to be – or who they want me to be. That simple acceptance and affirmation of my identity means everything to me. Ya’ll give me love and hope, and ya’ll inspire me to be the best vision of myself that I can imagine.
I am grateful for the audacity of hope and the freedom to dream. As a domestic abuse survivor and a rape victim, hope is a gentle flame I have learned to cradle and nurture. If I let its fire get too hot, it fizzles and dies. I am learning, through being present in the moment, that I can hope. That I can dream big – dreams so big that their impact is beyond my ability to comprehend, dreams so big they scare me. Those dreams are reachable – if I let the fire of hope become the spring of action, taking each step and each day one at a time. I must be present in the moment to make those, and I must be gracious with myself as I make them.
I am grateful for my faith community. Not just the Community in McHenry that welcomed this heretical daughter home, but all of the people of faith (and no faith) in my life that challenge me daily to live my ideals. While I am long removed from the practice of Christianity, I frequently reminded of the necessity of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)*
I am grateful for the moment about five years ago when I sat on the front porch steps of a three-flat in Chicago, looked at the night sky, and said “What now?” The Great Recession’s effects were everywhere, and I was unemployed, broke, and directionless. This year, I am grateful for that moment because it forced me to rethink everything I thought I knew – and work towards everything I have ever wanted.
I am thankful for each one of you for being a part of my journey. Thank you for being here, and thank you for being you. Be blessed, all of you, be blessed.
*[Author’s note: The Golden Rule didn’t actually originate with the Western version of Christianity, it is just where I became familiar with it. It has been a part of almost every religious and/or philosophical structure in written history. Read this article on Wikipedia, if you want to know more about the Rule’s history.]