During the rituals of Thanksgiving we take special notice of the things for which we are grateful. But gratitude is more importantly a daily state of our mind, heart and soul. Being grateful - giving thanks - is crucial in terms of our mental, emotional and spiritual health. Gratitude is the heart of prayer. It appropriately makes us aware of being co-creators with life, of creating an interdependent state of companionship with Spirit and all that is around us. Even when we get discouraged we can usually appreciate something that holds and sustains our gratitude about being alive.
But I have been aware recently that there is a quality of gratitude that is deeper than just thanksgiving. I’m thinking of what it means to cherish someone. The dictionary describes being cherished as “being cared for beyond measure; protecting and caring for (someone) lovingly.” And I would add that cherishing is a type of “seasoned love." When we love someone long enough and deep enough we develop gratitude for the tenderness and resiliency we have shared over the years. When we cherish each other the beloveds become part of each other. Love transforms from just being grateful for the life shared to truly cherishing what we have become together.
Many of us will remember the children’s story about the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. I won’t try to recap the plot, but the most memorable part is when the Skin Horse reminds the boy's forlorn and now well-worn favorite stuffy that it takes time to “become,” to be “real," to be cherished in my terms. “It takes a long time,” says the Skin Horse. “That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges"…and by the time you get to be truly cherished, he says, “most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” (The price of becoming cherished? Maybe.)
As we get older we may not be in quite as bad shape as the Velveteen Rabbit before we cherish or are cherished, but it is true we are better able to experience what it means to cherish life and another person when we are more confident we don't break easily and when we loose our sharp edges. When we learn to cherish life it both humbles and yet elevates our sense of gratitude about ourselves, others and the meaning of deep friendship and relationship.
The traditional wedding vows often include the terms “to love and to cherish,” but when we are just getting married we probably don’t give much thought about what the meaning of cherish might become. Over the years, however, in strong and enduring marriages the wedding blessing to “love and cherish” defines what it really means to share a life together.
In these edgy, anxious, and often cynical days, I encourage us to remember all that we cherish in life. The Covid lockdown pared our lives down enough to force us to live more intentionally and to cherish what is most essential, namely our various family and close relationships and our dependency on community and each other. The dire challenges we face just may be the process by which we become more real, like the Velveteen Rabbit, and in the process we may well learn to cherish life all the more. At least I want this to be true.
May you become ever more aware in these darkening days of all you cherish in life that bring you light and hope.