“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
January 31, 2011
A 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
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
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.
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
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.