What are you thankful for? It's a question often asked this Thanksgiving holiday season. Some think it's a little sappy, but I actually believe it's a very good question. And answering it is a good reminder of what's really important. Many of us are too often focused on what we'd like to change or be different, instead of remembering and being grateful for the blessings we already have in our lives.
So, what am I thankful for? I have been feeling very blessed these days. Joy and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary this year and I can honestly say that these 10 years have been the very best of my life. To have a partner who really makes you better and who helps you keep your feet on the ground is a real blessing, as is a relationship where you can both love and admire the other while helping to keep each other very human all at the same time. And Joy is the kind of person who also makes sure that you have fun! For a serious activist type like me, that is a blessing indeed.
And then there are those two boys of ours. Luke is now nine and Jack is four. I was raised in a big and close family. But for many years, my own life was consumed with mission, community, and action. But along came Joy, and then a family that has become, literally, the anchor of my life. I used to say that my work was good, but now my life is good too.
I build my travel schedule now around Little League baseball, in which I get to coach 14 nine-year-olds, whom I've had for four years. My first coaching instructions back then were things like "throw it overhand," but our kids have become a good little team and just finished another undefeated season! Our "sports Saturdays" are the best day of the week for our family - starting with soccer in the morning, finishing with baseball in the afternoon. Our team goals are three: learn to love the game of baseball, learn how to be good teammates, and have fun. Luke just loves baseball (as does his English mom), and it was very special indeed when we got to share the experience of going to this fall's World Series opener at historic Fenway Park in Boston-a dad/son moment we'll remember for the rest of our lives. Jack, who also loves going to the games and running around with all his little friends, has already started soccer himself, and will be ready to start Little League T-ball next spring. He came up to me recently and asked, "Dad, are you going to coach my team too?" What could I say? I'll be coaching two teams next spring.
Both Luke and Jack love school, and we're very lucky to have found a great public school for them to go to. Luke has joined the school spelling bee and, unlike his dad, is also good at math. Jack is just itching to read, has quite an imagination, and is learning language and vocabulary at such a pace that makes both his parents smile as he puts words together in often very funny ways. Their ever-increasing activities fill our lives with all sorts of things that we otherwise might have never known, which we both know is an amazing (if sometimes exhausting!) blessing. There is the school safety patrol, piano lessons, a weekly drama workshop called the Shakespeare Club, along with baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis. But most importantly, they are both very happy and healthy boys - and that is the best blessing of all.
Joy calls our collection of families from school, soccer, and baseball "the village" and, in many ways, she has become "the village priest" in her relationship to many of those people. She really enjoys being so involved in the boy's school, and even loves to run the school auction, shamelessly getting all our friends to donate stuff (the most recent example was getting Bono to autograph two school T-shirts when he was in town a few weeks ago). She did a wonderful commencement address this year at Goshen College in Indiana and inspired the eager young graduates to make their lives really count for something. I am very blessed to have a wife and partner with whom to share a common vision of faith and justice, and an even deeper understanding of the things that make life so rich, human, and good-an ongoing conversation that is usually shared over a glass of wine at night. And if my priest wife is ever to go back to pastoring a church again, it would likely have to be called "grace" church, because she has the deepest theology of grace of anybody I know-a gift that comes in very handy with a husband like me who regularly needs the blessing of grace.
For many years, we at Sojourners continued on with the vision and work that we had been given three decades ago. But in the last few years, it has all broken through in ways we hadn't imagined before, and that has brought many blessings too. It seems the time is right and ripe for the message that connects spiritual renewal and social change. But we now have a new term on the staff that we call "outrageous opportunities," used as an internal reminder not to be overwhelmed by all the wonderful invitations and open doors we are presented with almost every day. Those "blessings" could well burn us out unless we learn how to be good stewards of all the new opportunities coming our way. Those blessings are now an invitation to prayerfully discern our best vocation and role, which is far better than just succumbing to the temptation of just doing more and more important things.
But as Thomas Merton once said, "In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything." And for me, the greatest blessings are clearly to be "a family" with Joy, Luke, and Jack; to have some of the best friends and companions on this journey that anyone could be blessed to have; to enjoy an extended family of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, who still are very conscious of the legacy of love that our now departed parents left us all (my dad passing this past year); and to regularly meet people on the road who, even if just meeting them for the first time, express such a deep solidarity and kindred spirit with us in this emerging movement that marries faith and justice-especially a new generation, which gives me such hope.
So as they say in the black churches, "I'm blessed." I would humbly suggest that that you make a list of your blessings this Thanksgiving weekend, or write a little reflection like this about the ways that you too are blessed. Take a breath, or a walk, or a moment or two, and say a prayer to the God of love and grace who wants to fill our lives and our world with such rich blessings. As Joy and I have talked recently about our many blessings, we are very aware that we, our family, and our friends may well face some tough issues and painful challenges in the years ahead. But even in the face of those human realities, it's always best to begin by first remembering all the ways that we are blessed. So Happy Thanksgiving, and let us all count our blessings.