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“How do I reach the human maturity of understanding the world as nurturing me and calling me forth more than repelling me?”  This is the question Sr. Beverly Stott, RSM posed as she reflected on resentments pertaining to her childhood upbringing.  Her reflection and research on this experience led her to make an important distinction between partial pre-reflective experiences of thankfulness that grasp the heart at fleeting moments throughout our lives, and the deeper experience of spiritual gratitude that is an acknowledgement of “the total giftedness of life” as received from a loving Creator.

From Resentment to Gratitude

by Beverly Stott, RSM

January 31, 2011

resentmentA half an hour had passed since the time of setting out on our journey and already the last of suburbia has sunk behind us out of sight.  Now as the car speedometer needle inexorably rises to country speed limits, the countryside stretches out unimpeded on each side of us.  The silver grey road lies like a new ribbon ahead of us across the grassed paddocks.  The molten gold of the rising gun is streaking out from the rim of the low hills to the East.  The tension of rising early, packing the car, and making sure that we have all that is necessary for a journey into areas that are infrequently inhabited begins to slip from my shoulders and my spirit expands as surely as the horizons open out before us.  I wonder anew why it is so long since I have been back to these scenes of my childhood.  My lifting heart and delighted eyes tell me that this is where I belong.  I claim once again my birthright and a feeling like the beginnings of gratitude swells within me as I think of the providence which allowed that I should have been born to parents who had belonged to farming communities all their lives and who had bequeathed to me this rich heritage of a living sensitivity to the closeness of soil, grass, and trees, a living sensitivity to our vulnerability in the face of wind, rain, and sunshine.

     Yet as I relax and my spirit expands, I remember that I have not always been so faithful to my heritage.  There has been a time at the beginning of making my way in the world where, for me, the city had all the answers.  In fact in my new world of the city I felt that I had missed a large portion of the history of the real world.  I felt this because I did not share a common history with my new companions of the city.  All that had happened seemed to have happened to them.  I could not see my own history as bearing any weight at all in the affairs of the world.  Then the life of the city had driven a wedge between me and the life of living on an isolated farm which made no demands on me except that I should live and enjoy.  In the city I made friends and ties with people who had always lived with ready access to shops and theaters, who knew about how to catch trams and buses, were able to go to named locations in the city, who were proficient in the ways of the world, who knew ways of self-protection.  Because I viewed all this in round-eyed wonder, it never occurred to me to value my own accomplishments, to know what I had received in knowing the birth of a calf, in knowing the joys of walking recently-milked cows to their day paddocks in early morning air, in knowing that the sound of a car in the distance meant a visitor for us and for no one else.  This new world of the city was so full of the unknown that it seemed to me that it had to be better.  So began my infidelity in heart and thought to the sources and elements which have made me what I am.  Not infidelity only but there was born in me a low-burning resentment against the things which made me feel so inadequate in this, my new world.  I tried to break the bonds which tied me to this seemingly narrow and unsophisticated way of life.  I did all the denying, ignoring, and even deceit to cover this past.  I concealed in all ways possible the uneasiness that I felt in the new world.  I did not admit even to myself that I was not at home in my adopted surroundings.

     Now, years later, somewhat worn from abrasive living in the world of the city, somewhat bored at its empty sophistication, that is, having finally detected glimpses of the clay feet on the concrete god of the city, I am at last allowing myself to come home.  Now under the influence of this early morning sun and fresh chilly air I allow to fall from me, as surely as the suburbs fall behind as we increase our distance between us and them, my pseudo-connections and world-weary control.  I allow to well up in me the joy I knew to be mine at recognizing my original affinities with land and simple living.  How glad I am that I am at home here, that out in scenes such as these I first learned what it meant to be alive; in scenes such as these I first explored nature and its secrets.  On this morning and repeated times like this, the wedge between this home and me is gradually dislodged.  It teeters now out of balance.  The more I accept the irrevocable me that this early life indelibly printed into the fabric of my being, the more easily do I fit into the niche which is mine in the world.   It becomes less necessary to live expending energy to cover and disguise those ways in me which mark me out for what I am. Now I begin to claim them in gratitude.

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