Which Comes First: Gratitude or Gift?

In chapter 5 of God in the Yard, I admit that lists didn't change me. I feel alone in saying this, seeing the popularity of the gratitude list. But I'm being honest. And of course it doesn't mean someone else couldn't find change this way.

Today I'm particularly struck by the Lewis Hyde quotes in this chapter:

...with gifts that are agents of change, it is only when the gift has worked in us, only when we have come up to its level, as it were, that we can give it away again...


Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude.

So gratitude seems to be almost an ache, one that moves us to give what we've been given, after the gift has wrought some kind of work in us.

I do not think the receiving or the giving is simple. So much depends on our openness. Our openness depends on healing, or maybe courage. The giving and receiving seem not to be one-time experiences either. For instance, it occurs to me that the subject of beauty has been recurring in my life over time.

A few years ago I discovered someone whose life work with the poor is based on theories of beauty— manifested in pottery, jazz, and growing orchids. How unusual. It gained my attention. About a year later I was asked to speak on beauty at Jubilee Professional. This request perplexed me. What did I know of beauty, to be pinpointed as someone who had anything to say about it?

Since that time, the subject has been coming 'round again. When did it become a gift? Have I come up to its level? Is the process of receiving even near over? Yet I've begun to feel the intense need to consciously give beauty away.

Which is to say that gratitude seems to me to be a complex experience rooted in gifts. And gifts are not something we can necessarily engineer in our favor. They are given through time, in pieces, and in unexpected places.


Andrea has blogged on Chapter 2.

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Blogger Cassandra Frear said...

Thoughtful as always. I like the quote from Lewis Hyde. There is gratitude and then there is full gratitude.

Blogger Laura said...

Your exploration of beauty of late has been speaking to deep places in me. It has raised my awareness of the gift of such--especially your poetry--how it heals, how it reaches out.

Thank you for this.

Anonymous Dena Dyer said...

A beautiful post, Laura. :) You help me slow down and think deeply. I appreciate that!

Blogger Maureen said...

O'Donohue deemed beauty a state of the heart.

Blogger Unknown said...

I've missed being here! And this will take some more thinking...'They are given through time, in pieces, and in unexpected places.' Initially I think of how my aunt said 'cancer is a gift' what??!! I know more what she meant caring for my mama and losing her...and yet gaining so much...the greatest gift was how she taught me how to fight to the end yet die with grace...and with this loss of someone close, there is the sense of eternity meeting time in profound ways that increase the longer she is gone...i think this is some of what you are saying?

Anonymous Cheryl Smith said...

Suffering gratitude. Interesting phrasing... gives me pause to think.

I love how you share boldly that lists haven't changed you and how this post gives hope (and resource) to those who can relate.


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