In the Midst of Fasting, I am so Grateful

By Mary Kay Henry 4-06-2011

On day three of my prayer fast, I woke up with the hymn, "I Am So Grateful," which the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ Children's Choir sang beautifully yesterday, running through my head.

It sums up my feelings today very well.

I'm grateful for Sojourners President Jim Wallis for having the wisdom to begin the fast to reframe the debate around our national budget as a moral document that expresses our humanity as Americans. I'm thankful to MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben for calling me and others to fast and to share why we are fasting with our respective memberships. I'm grateful I had the wisdom to say yes to Justin's call.

I am deeply grateful for the support of the union, which I have the privilege to lead, including the support of International Executive Board member Kirk Adams and Gina Miller of 1199 United Healthcare Workers East, who joined me in fasting on Friday, and SEIU Wisconsin President Dian Palmer, who is now beginning to fast.

I'm thankful for my incredible support team that includes Tom Chabolla, Ann Rhodes, communications and new media staff who have worked around the clock to raise awareness of the fast and what it represents. I am also thankful for the many thoughtful calls and Facebook postings of encouragement and to ask how I was holding up on merely water.

Without a doubt, fasting has changed me. It has made me more keenly aware of what I have to be grateful for: the birds that sang to me on my walk in this morning, my neighbors working the soil to prepare for beautiful flowers and fragrant herbs.

I'm also grateful that by coming together to fast, we have made progress in raising tough questions about how the federal budget reflects our country's priorities.

Are we a country that will give tax breaks for corporations and Wall Street that have record profits while cutting Head Start for the nurse who relies on the program so she can go to work every day?

Are we a country that gives tax cuts to millionaires while cutting teachers' jobs and increasing class size so our students get less attention in the classroom?

Are we a country that will end Medicare as we know it and put seniors at the mercy of insurance companies that only care about the bottom line?

The final budget deal will tell us, but I am hopeful that the movement our communities have united to create will demand and create more fairness and justice in our country -- for which I am also truly grateful.

Mary Kay Henry is the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Visit their blog here.

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