Gratitude for the Work of Loving the World

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 5:10am

Gratitude for the Work of Loving the World

“I am thankful for many things. First of all, I am thankful for the world, because without it we would be floating in outer space. Second of all, I am thankful for mom and dad and sister, because they help me. Last of all, I am grateful for nature because if we didn't have nature it wouldn't be pretty. I am thankful for all of these things."

That’s what one of my bright, kind, adventuresome granddaughters wrote a few years ago (at age 6) in response to a school assignment. On Thanksgiving Day that year — with three generations of our family at the table — we read her words aloud as our blessing. As we did, I thought, “Naiya speaks for me!” Like her, I’m grateful for simple gifts:

• For the ground on which I stand — whether it’s the kind that grows greenery or the kind in which my soul can take root.
• For the people who’ve supported me — from those who know me well and love me nonetheless to strangers who offered help in a moment of need.
• For the natural world, which really does make things pretty — a beauty to which I often turn for solace, healing, inspiration, and peace.

The only way to keep a gift alive is to pass it along. So on Thanksgiving Day this year — in a world where so many have been deprived of so much — I’ll give thanks by finding more ways to share the abundance I’ve been given.

I’ll also re-read this Mary Oliver poem. If I could embrace the idea that “My work is loving the world” — and spend my days living more fully into that job description — I’d be giving thanks not just with my words but with my life.

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

          equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
          keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

          and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

          to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

          that we live forever.

Share Post

Shortened URL


Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

Share Your Reflection



I am thankful for those who shared their sacred space or place with me over the past year. While my goal is to document these photographically, I realize the space a person considers sacred is theirs and must be honored as such. Thanks for sharing this with me.

I am thankful for Parker Palmer, Krista Tippet, Mary Oliver, and all the people who help us remember how to be fully human. Thank you!

This is beautiful. My prayer is that the whole world could just think these thoughts and never mind our differences--be they the color of our skin or what we believe or . . .May God bless every soul today and grant us peace.

A kind Thanksgiving to you and yours sir. Thank you for pointing out that which should be the work of all our lives.

Thank you for the reminders that there is beauty all around us. Sometimes as I age I focus too much on the consequences of an aging body. My spirit is rising with gratitude and opportunities to help others.

Palmer Parker speaks for me.

I am thankful for those that do the difficult job of standing up for what is right in a non violent way to shine the path for others to follow.

I am grateful for folks, such as yourself and Mary Oliver, in our midst that have the beautiful ability to express the importance of recognizing simplicities in our world. Most of my 50 year journey through life I've felt somewhat an oddity for thinking of life in this way as well. My gratitude for wordsmiths such as yourselves say what I think and feel. With gratitude.

The following is an excerpt from my poem "Zion"
The breeze, it carries mornings scent
Of being born a daily gift
A new beginning for thankful hearts
Forgiveness given and received.

I read this, having just read some thoughtful essays in response to the situation brought to glaring light in Ferguson. How is it that I was born white at the end of WWII to an educated family that valued nature, not just as balm for the soul, but as essential to the wellbeing of the soul? How am I so fortunate as to have been born here in America, where there are still wild places to witness? By what wonderful chance was I born to parents who loved me? And how is it that I'm in my late sixties and have no medical problems and take no medications? My gratitude is huge! I most certainly have a responsibility in return. May I live up to it, gratefully.

Thankful that I can say I am thankful. Thankful for my incredible abroad semester. Grateful for the friends I have made and the friends I have left behind on campus. Thankful that their is love, imagination and good food in my life. Thankful that my legs can run, my eyes can see and my voice can speak. Thankful that there is beauty all around to be seen, felt and wondered in.

an excerpt from my poem "Zion"
The breeze, It carries morning's scent
Of being born - A daily gift
A new beginning for thankful hearts
Forgiveness given and received.

Some people think that it must be terrible to live with a chronic illness, with chronic pain, but when I was able to move past my grief, I began to see the gifts. One of the greatest gifts I have been given is the time and ability to be present and mindful, to see the potential in everything and to have gratitude for the beauty in this world...a smile, a full dandelion puff, the way light reflects off the window at 3PM. Everyday offers itself to me so that I may see the gifts of my life and give thanks. Simple gifts, yes. When they are strung together over time, their impact is stunning. Much peace and love~

As Meister Eckhart said: if the only prayer you ever say is "thank you," that is enough.

Thank you Parker Palmer and Krista Tippett.

I am thankful for all the students who have turned up to study the 5 rhythms with me over the last 20 years.

I just spend a week with family including my spouse, our children, their spouses and our grandchildren. For that, I am indeed grateful. This poem also reminded me that"my work", which I have at times forgotten, has been to be a parent and now, a grandparent. I have passed along my life's journey, which hopefully is accepted as a gift.
I thank them all for being in my life and for my wife to help and to share the journey with me.

Thank you so very much,Parker for sharing with so many what comes deep from within your own heart!
Such wonderful inspiration.
A dear friend,also of yours often used to say:"Live out of your abundance,
never out of scarcity!"
I also want to find more and new ways to live into your job description:
Loving the World!
And I thank you and Mary Oliver to help me.

Blessed Advent to you,
the time of:Waiting,Watching,Preparing,Rejoicing.