Gratitude, Liberation, and Thanksgiving

Photo by  Ethan Weil  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

An aboriginal woman from central Queensland, Australia, Lilla Watson, and her aboriginal collective, have been credited with the saying,

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

At a local pub on Monday night members from Echoes and another church engaged in conversation about gratitude. One of the tougher things to recognize about gratitude (especially at Thanksgiving time) is that it can come as a result of the oppression of others. Thanksgiving is understandably a day of mourning for many, many Native American persons living in what is called the USA. I’m thankful for a roof over my head, a job, an education, food on the table, security….all things that have come as an after-effect of the genocide of approx 90% of all Native Americans who lived in the US. The survivors of this genocide continue to live in marked oppression.

What do I do with my gratitude when it comes at the expense of others?

The fellow pastor who was co-facilitating this pub conversation, Emma Donohew, told us about a book titled, “Grateful,” by Diana Butler Bass. The author says that it is short-changing gratitude to always look at it as something that we feel by looking backwards – we are grateful for things that have happened in the past. Instead, our gratitude needs to be in a future tense as well.

Our conversation group struggled with this. How does one move gratitude into the future?

I think part of the answer is embodying the notion that our liberation is truly bound together. I can’t be truly free to experience the good things in my life when they are withheld from others. Humanity, and all life on this planet are interconnected. For you and I to be free, all need to be free.

And it won’t be the colonials who set the oppressed free. It HAS to be us – all of us - working together, sharing power, listening, acting, humanizing….and sharing in a common liberation.