February 2019

Dear Friends,

The windows on our house are not as tight and well insulated as they might be. In this cold weather frost forms on the inside of the storm windows. The patterns it forms are intricate--some swirling and fanciful, other more straight with branches like long narrow balsams. All of them are quite beautiful. What a blessing!

Last night I listened to a podcast of the TED Radio Hour titled "Approaching with Kindness." It was about appreciation and gratitude and what a positive impact they have on both giver and receiver. God has filled the world around us with beauty. It's so important to pause and appreciate God's gifts large and small—mountain ranges and Great Lakes, but also window frost and the delightful crunch of cold snow under boots.

AJ Jacobs, who wrote A Year of Living Biblically based his TED talk on a new book: Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey. Jacobs' niche is to undertake unusual projects and write about his experience. The project behind Thanks a Thousand was inspired by his young son, who observed that, while they gave thanks at meals for the hands that provided the food, those people were not there to hear the thanks. So Jacobs decided to attempt to thank, directly, in person where possible or by letter or card, every person who's work made his morning cup of coffee possible.

He began with the barista at his favorite coffee shop. With her help he tracked down the owner, and the person who roasted the beans and thanked them. From the local coffee shop, the thing just snowballed. The next layer of thanks went to all the truck drivers who transported those coffee beans, and the buyer who sourced them, and so on. And then there were the ancillary items like the cup, with it's own long chain of people to thank including the inventor of that little sleeve that keeps you from burning your fingers. And so on and so forth, all the way back to one of the farms that grew the coffee beans. All of them were surprised and pleased when Jacobs showed up to thank them. And Jacobs himself felt much better, for he had begun the thanksgiving project in part out of a recognition that he tended to wake up in a grumpy, complaining state of mind.

Simple acts of approaching the world and people with kindness and gratitude are almost magically powerful in transforming the lives of others, and they will transform your life in the bargain.


The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries