“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
– Wendell Berry
It is November and my friends are again posting their thankfulness to their Facebook timelines. It is a great thing to be thankful; I believe that genuine thankfulness is the key to mental health and the life of the soul. I have posted many days of thankfulness in previous years, and I think it was good for my heart to do so. However, my favorite exercise in public thankfulness wasn’t an individual effort. It was a group activity in my classroom. I started it as a November activity, but we stretched it longer than that because we enjoyed the habit.
I simply asked my group what they were thankful for each day and wrote down what they said. This was in my public school gifted ed classroom, and we shared a lot in our interests and humor. It was easy to enter into corporate thankfulness with them.
I have taught in public, Catholic, and Classical schools. I have found many things to love in each one. As a Christian, I have come to realize that beauty and truth are the only yardsticks worthy to measure by. And there is a systemic, sliding scale of how much beauty and truth you are allowed to give in each of these places.
As a single girl, I have realized that public school might be my only viable option financially, much to my sadness. I would love to participate in beauty and truth each day on a deep level. However, I found corporate thankfulness with my students as a way to steep our public-school day in much truth and beauty that would have otherwise passed us by.
I found that the problem with expressing thankfulness on Facebook is that I don’t usually phrase things that way. I find that I “love” things more often that I am thankful for them. Eighth Day Books owner Warren Farha says that loving things and people includes inherent thankfulness.
And he’s right.
I watched a video of a professor discussing the transition from orality to literacy; the transition from storytelling around the fire vs. stories coming via books. Before the rise of individual literacy, there was no concept of ‘my story,’ but a concept of ‘our story.’ There was no such thing as authorship. Literacy created the rise of individualism, and I fear that, in some ways, our dogged individualism and independence is a clear and present danger to our souls.
To love implies relationship. And even by framing my thankfulness in terms of love, I have inadvertently been seeking corporate rather than individual thankfulness for years.
So that’s why, this year, I am not separating days of individual thankfulness. I am looking to be thankful in concert, in our story. I will find this thankfulness in The Real. With children. With adults. In conversation, in singing, in laughing, in the Church. In the world.
As we live together, as we create our corporate thankfulness, we proceed a bit more toward heaven each day. Our places are more sacred simply for our having been there, sharing this story together. That is what I hope in and that is what I seek.