Moments of Great Relief: The Gratitude Reflex

From the Editor: The What Canst Thou Say? May issue should be out in the next couple of weeks. There was space for only one of those that Janice Stenrude submitted, so we are pulbishing the other one here. Thanks, Janice!

by Janice Stensrude

When I first set pen to paper to write about gratitude, I was startled that the first thing that popped into my head was “Thank you, Jeezuz!” — an exclamation that crept into my lexicon many years ago, seemingly outside its religious meanings. As I pondered this curious thought reflex, I became aware of the existence of an unconscious, deeply felt sincerity that hides within our secularized hymns of gratitude — the happy “Thank you, Jeezuz!” response to receiving an unexpected windfall or long hoped-for outcome, or the “Oh, Gawd!” uttered or shouted in praise and thanksgiving as the sexual climax reaches its crescendo. Reflecting on the gratitude expressed in my life and in the lives of those around me, I realize that the most powerfully felt moments of gratitude seem also to be moments of great relief — moments that can bring us to our knees in earnest prayers of thanksgiving or to our feet with shouts of joyful gratitude.

As I sift through my memories to remember moments of felt gratitude, two particular incidents come immediately to mind, mostly because they left behind important insights. The first occurred in 1987, when my younger son was a petty officer aboard the U.S.S. Fox. The United States had deployed several ships to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, placing themselves in the middle of a conflict between Iran and Iraq. In May of that year, an Iraqi fighter plane fired missiles at the U.S.S. Stark, killing 37 American sailors and leaving 21 more with serious injuries — an incident that the Iraqi government claimed was an accident. My son’s ship was part of the fleet that was called to the aid of the crippled ship, and he was assigned the duty to make the decision and to push the button that would launch an attack if Iraqi planes entered the protected air space. It was a tense ten days. Others in my family listened to the news every day and heard the familiar voice that warned Iraqi planes to turn back, but I just changed channels, refusing to make too real the paralyzing truth of the situation.

I was a young child during World War II, and I grew up hearing the stories of worried mothers, including how my step grandmother’s hair turned white overnight when two of her sons were reported missing on the same day. But now it was real. It was personal. It was my nineteen-year-old son, and I finally viscerally understood the terror of all the mothers who ever had sons in a war. I was flooded with immense relief and gratitude when the danger passed without incident.

That same year, the Oil Bust hit Houston, where I was living at the time. My boss had just shut down her architecture practice, married, and moved to London where her new husband had an accounting practice. One of her clients immediately approached me to work for him, but the day before I was to report to work, he called and withdrew the offer. His main client, who accounted for more than half his business had cut him from their budget. After several months bouncing between unemployment checks and assignments for a temporary agency, I was offered free office space in exchange for answering telephones. I used my windfall workspace to set myself up as a small-business consultant.

It didn’t take long to realize that there wasn’t a market for those services, but there was a growing market for people who knew how to write and type a letter. As professionals in various fields were laid off by large companies, they scavenged work as contract consultants, but now without the office support staff provided by previous employers. I continued taking on temporary assignments when they were available, paying someone else minimum wage to answer telephones for me. At the end of my second year in business, I had made enough money to pay an income tax. Who would have thought that paying taxes could trigger a gratitude celebration?

In retrospect, I find a host of unlikely occasions that triggered my gratitude reflex. The old saw, “You have to take the bad with the good,” is, quite simply, true. Each cause for grief has arrived arm-in-arm with cause to celebrate with thanks.

WAR by Anne Scherer

WAR
never there
___________Pearl Harbor
_______________Germany
________________Vietnam
________________Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran,
heard the sound of bombs
gunfire
Somehow—someway
I do hear and it’s so loud!
STOP! Sounds of sirens! They won’t stop!
Air raids! Police! Ambulance! Tornado sirens!
__________Duck and cover
___“Put your head between your knees
_______And kiss your ass goodbye”

Too many people are dying
see and smell death all around me
no escape
I sense the experience deep within
and crouch in fear
under covers
I share battle scars
different than yours–yet the same
came by a different name
hear a different cry— or do I?
see, smell a culture of ambivalence
Wounded, I crawl out from under to survive
LIVE
in a world hell bent on destruction.

Anne M. Scherer 1/12/20

WAR by Anne Scherer

WAR

never  there

Pearl Harbor

Germany

Vietnam

Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran,

heard the sound of bombs

gunfire

Somehow—someway

I do hear and it’s so loud!

STOP!  Sounds of sirens! They won’t stop!

Air raids! Police! Ambulance! Tornado sirens!

Duck and cover

“Put your head between your knees

And kiss your ass goodbye”

 

Too many people are dying

see and smell death all around me

no escape

I sense the experience deep within

and crouch in fear

under covers

I share battle scars

different than yours–yet the same

came by a different name

hear a different cry— or do I?

see, smell a culture of ambivalence

Wounded,  I crawl out from under to survive

LIVE

in a world hell bent on destruction.

 

Anne M. Scherer       1/12/20

 

 

Showing Kindness by Anne M. Scherer

Showing kindness

every single day

each action you take

it’s all about mindfulness.

Think about the words you say

showing kindness everyday

someone old or young, in a wheelchair,

needs a warm smile, not a stare.

Small, tall or color of skin

all that truly matters is what’s within

we all have minds and a heart

showing kindness is being smart.

Straight, Bi, Transgender, Lesbian or Gay

people tend to judge; so show kindness

think of people as a rainbow

you will see equality and know.

Everyone has emotions, feelings deep inside

happy, sad or feeling mad and sometimes want to shout

when you see someone sad, ask “Would you like a hug?”

showing kindness helps others let their feelings out.

How many ways can you show kindness?

Did you help your mom or dad, a friend in need

or a neighbor? Did you brush your cat, walk the dog,

fill their bowls with food to feed.

There are so many ways to be kind

it brings love and joy

showing kindness

is all about mindfulness.