written and given by Shelagh Huston


Shelagh HustonFriends, Neighbours, Islanders – Lend me your ears!

O si:em siye’yu, nuw’ilum (Honoured friends, welcome) 

‘Uy’ kwunus ‘i lumnamu (It is good to see you)

I greet you in ‘Hul’q’umi’num’, the language of the Snuneymuxw people, who from ancient times have lived on and cared for the land where we now live. We honour and respect their stewardship, and we say Huy ch q’u (Thank you) to them. This is how it is often done – Huy ch q’u [with hand gesture].

I want to do something a little different this year because right now, there’s a lot going on in our world that we don’t in any way feel grateful for. On top of all the existential threats to our world that disturb us, we are seeing, up close and vividly, the inhumanity of humans to humans.

We are still given so many gifts, so much good, and we still absolutely need to give thanks. But in my own mind, I have to set that gratitude in a space in which I also recognize and witness to the many things which distress us deeply.

We’re in this perpetual ambivalence

where we witness evil, and we wish for good.
where we lack any full control, and yet always have some ability to do good.
where we have a clear vision of the world we want, and profound uncertainty about what will in fact happen.

And it’s really hard to stay with our eyes open in that balance place between powerlessness and action, between fear and vision, between grief and gratitude.

To be thankful, to be hopeful, are not only acts of great courage in these times, but they are acts which will create the future for which we yearn. My friends – let us be grateful.

So right now, I want to invite us to settle ourselves together into that place of balance between grief and gratitude, where we open ourselves to hope – which is the true realism of taking seriously the possibilities in each moment.

I’m going to speak of our griefs as well as our gratitudes.
And whenever I say the words: To these griefs: let us all together respond: we bear witness.
And whenever I say the words: For these gifts: let us all together respond: we give thanks.
And whenever I say the words: We remember: let us all together respond: we are one.

Like this:
To these griefs: we bear witness.
For these gifts: we give thanks.
We remember
: we are one.

We live in a time in which our Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed in so many ways. Species are disappearing. The abundance we old people knew when we were young – the birds we heard singing at dawn, the fish we could catch any afternoon, the butterflies we saw in our gardens, are now far fewer, and endangered.

We know that our neighbors the whales, especially those of J pod, our beloved local orca family, are in great danger, starving, unable to raise their children.
To these griefs: we bear witness

and yet – We see people, our neighbours ,caring for the creation, from leaving a few leaves on the edges of their gardens for the creatures to winter over in, to giving their time and lives to do a great deal.

We recognize many who see the world around them as being full of living relatives, some who have taught this understanding for generations, and some who are coming to it now, and turning away from a way of thinking which destroys our world.
For these gifts:  we give thanks.

As we think of our living world,
We remember
:  we are one.

We have seen atrocities, we have witnessed evil and death coming to humans from the hands of other humans. We are seeing this wrong in many places, in people’s homelands. We see it in the land which some of us have called the Holy Land, a land which is not now whole, but is deeply divided, and in great pain.
To these griefs: we bear witness

and yet – we have seen those who in the face of these realities urgently seek and choose peace, do their best to reach across gaps and borders, work to refrain from hatred and find a just and compassionate way of being together.
For these gifts: we give thanks

As we think of our experiences of war and our deep longing for peace,
We remember
:  we are one.

We live in a world where so many lack adequate food, clean water and air, health care and education, a voice, safety and security. A world rooted in injustice.
To these griefs: we bear witness

and yet – We are so often aware of the neighborliness that enacts love and compassion. We are grateful for every person who reaches out a hand or gives a smile, to everyone who shares from their own resources for the needs of others. We are grateful for every parent who sacrifices sleep or money or personal choices to the needs of the children. And for all the many in our community who every day share their gifts and talents with others. And for all who work to change our world into a place of solidarity and justice.
For these gifts: we give thanks

And as we think of the needs of humanity,
We remember
: we are one.

We live in a time of division and tribalism, in which culture wars and rigidly-held dualisms override thinking, in which it is very difficult to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I think I’ve changed my mind’. We are bombarded with messages of division and hatred.
To these griefs:  we bear witness

and yet – there are many who are working to reach across these divides, who refuse to be defined by one or other of their opinions, who look for common ground and ways forward that can manage disagreement. We are grateful for all those who learn the skills of good communication, who mediate between opposing viewpoints, who are brave enough to say I disagree, but you’re still my neighbor. We are grateful for peacemakers, for facilitators, for those who draw people together in gatherings like this.

For these gifts:  we give thanks

And as we think of deepening or of healing our divisions,
We remember
:  we are one.

We bring to mind the living systems of earth – the plants, the animals, the invisibly small creatures on whom we depend. We are grateful for the waters, the oceans, the rivers, the creeks, the clouds, the rain, for the snow, for the ice, for the hot water to make our tea. We’re grateful for the air we breathe, for the cycles that bring clean water and fresh air to us. For the seasons.

Today we are especially grateful for the time of harvest which brings us the food we need to live. We’re grateful for farmers, for all who grow food, for all who do the seeding, the caring, the harvesting, the carrying it to us. We are grateful to every one of the people far away on whom we all depend to bring us some of our food.

We’re grateful to the cooks who brought this food here today. Grateful for each other that we may eat together now.
For these gifts: we give thanks

And as we enjoy feasting here and now in community,
We remember
:  we are one.

And now, our minds are one.