Gratefulness, Not Hatefulness

Five things we can do to bring healing into our hearts.

Imagine a country whose citizens--maybe even its leaders--are brave, calm, and open towards each other; a country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense. To the extent to which we show ourselves not hateful but grateful, this becomes reality.

But gratefulness? The very word seems utterly out of place, even offensive, under the given circumstances. And yet, that we speak of "given" circumstances is significant. Whatever is given is a gift, and the appropriate response to any gift is gratitude. But what could be the gift in this case?

The gift we were given by the wake-up call of September 11 is an unprecedented opportunity: to wake up, wake up to the madness of violence and counter-violence. What happened to New York was as much and as little a first as what happened to Hiroshima. After all, we witnessed merely the most recent link in a chain of revenge for revenge. This recent retaliation is certainly not the first, but it gives us a unique opportunity to wake up and to make it the last.


Strange though it is, many of us were able to ignore the vicious circle of violence against violence--our own and that of others--as long as it was happening far away. We were asleep. September 11 was a rough awakening.

What now? We can show ourselves grateful for the wake-up call by staying awake, by acting wakefully. A danger recognized and faced is cut in half. The danger is violence regardless of who commits it, terrorists or legitimate governments. No rhetoric, no posturing can any longer obscure the fact that violence breeds violence. We must break that cycle of madness.

Violence has its roots in every heart. It is in my own heart that I must recognize fear, agitation, coldness, alienation, and the impulse to blind anger. Here in my heart, I can turn fear into courageous trust, agitation and confusion into stillness, isolation into a sense of belonging, alienation into love, and irrational reaction into common sense. The creative imagination of gratefulness will suggest to each one of us how to go about this task. I will list here five small gestures that have helped me personally to show my gratitude for the wake-up call and to stay awake.

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Brother David Steidl-Rast
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