They roll by just like water
and I guess we never learn
Go through life parched and empty
standin’ knee deep in a river
and dyin’ of thirst. — Kathy Mattea
Perhaps because I was riding on a wave of love and generosity during my retreat, it became especially dissonant when I overheard people complaining. Naturally, with temperatures around 102 and stifling humidity bearing down on us, there was understandably a fair bit of discomfort.
However, it was painful to hear people whining to whoever would listen that they were displeased with the food that was being served to us, or that the bottled water was merely cold and there was no ice, or that their special needs were not being accommodated.
It demonstrated how we (yes, myself often included), choose unhappiness and sour grapes, yet all the while we are standing knee deep in a river of abundance, love, and joy.
I, too, struggled with the heat, especially since I’d chosen (or been chosen by!) a weeklong course of study that spent a lot of time outdoors, in service to the land. But in walking that land, which was once owned by a nephew of George Washington, and which once was the home of hundreds of slaves, I clearly heard a voice from the past murmur to me, “Oh, child. You think you are hot? We, that were here toiling in these fields, we were hot, and no relief at the end of the day.”
Kind of puts things in perspective.
I can certainly understand when people have special needs. But I have observed that often, the more grave one’s special needs, the greater the opportunity to rise above them with grace, humor, and compassion. Certainly that was the case with one of our group who participated fully, despite being severely physically challenged.
It is facile, and not particularly helpful, I have found, to try to be glad of what you have because things could be so much worse. That is not really gratitude, it is fear. It is waiting for the other shoe to drop, the echo of a stern parent/god who says, “Quit crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.”
That’s not what I mean. I mean that when you have had your awareness widened, and you see that your very presence is a divine gift, then you realize that everything is a part of that gift, and is a blessing in some way.
Being so coddled that we are pouty that our air conditioning is not icy cold, or that our water is not chilled to our liking, or we want something else served to us for our breakfast is revealing, I think, not of how we should be grateful because there are others going hungry in the world. Instead, let us be grateful because when we quiet down, and look around, we see that there are hundreds of invisible loving hands who are serving us.
Otherwise, we are dying of thirst, while standing knee-deep in a river of magic and love.