Give Thanks Before the First Bite

Below is the poem written by Howard Thurman and read by Rev. Dr. Suzi Schadle at Unity of Sarasota’s 11/21/2021 Sunday Celebration Service

A Litany of Thanksgiving

by Howard Thurman

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

I begin with the simple things of my days:

fresh air to breathe, cool water to drink, the taste of food,

the protection of houses and clothes, the comforts of home.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:

My mother’s arms, the strength of my father,

the playmates of my childhood,

the wonderful stories brought to me from the lives of many who talked

of days gone by when fairies and giants and all kinds of magic held sway:

The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;

the excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye

with its reminder that life is good.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:

The smile of approval from those who held in their hands

the reins of my security;

the tightening of the grip in a single handshake

when I feared the step before me in the darkness;

the whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest

and the claims of appetite were not to be denied;

the crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page

when my decision hung in the balance.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:

The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before me,

without whom my own life would have no meaning;

the seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;

the prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp

and whose words could only find fulfillment

in the years which they would never see;

the workers whose sweat has watered the trees,

the leaves of which are for healing of nations;

the pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,

whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places;

the saviors whose blood was shed with a recklessness

that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I linger over the meaning of my own life

and the commitment to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:

the little purposes in which I have shared with my loves, my desires, my gifts;

the restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence

that I have never done my best, I have never dared to reach for the highest;

the big hope that never quite deserts me,

that I and my kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness

and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover

the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think of and heart can feel,

I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,

Our Father/Mother God, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

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