"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Being Thankful—When Real Gratitude Means Loving the Unlovely

By Micky Wolf

The first real sign of trouble may be the word unlovely. Why? Scripture (and Jesus) make it pretty clear, in similar language and on more than one occasion, that we best not make a decision to love—or not—on the basis of what appeals to us, or makes us feel good.

Given the nature of our (human) nature, deciding who or what is lovely means—according to our criteria—some things or some people aren’t. Which means we teeter on falling into the precipice of prejudice and judgment by even making the choice to attach that descriptor to any person, or any object in the first place.

Consider how the idea of what’s lovely or unlovely is unique to each of us.

Lovely sunflower…yet unlovely if you don’t like yellow.

Lovely lobster…yet unlovely if you have an allergy to seafood.

Lovely Aunt Martha…yet unlovely if she’s best known for endlessly repeating her orthodox views on the value of eating all things organic when your budget barely covers the cost of basic nutrition and food.

The good news is that the unlovely state doesn’t exist all the time. Nor is there reason to believe it need be permanent.

The truth is when it comes to the moment of hug or shun, you and I have the wherewithal to make a difference—for the better.

Maybe it’s because I had an up-close lesson on this whole topic in recent days.

Number one…of being reminded some of the people closest to me can be a real challenge to love based on my sense of how one ought to live and behave and;

Number two…of being reminded that within the small circle of family and friends I care about, (and who have made it clear, care about me) I am, without a doubt, that (unlovely) person to at least one, if not more of them, at any given moment.

It helps to remember it's all about perspective. Personal history and life experiences. Likes. Dislikes. Vanilla or chocolate. Beef or chicken. Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Black skin, white skin, wrinkled skin.

One thing I know for sure to be true through all these many years—loving others most like myself is easier. But as Christians, we are called to a deeper, more compassionate way of living.

We are invited to come face-to-face with the reality that it is only through our openness of heart to love those most unlike or different than ourselves that we truly understand what it means to love, and be loved in return.

What better opportunity for that to happen than around our tables and amid our family gatherings this Thanksgiving and holiday season?

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