1. Event

Gratitude: A Radical (and Essential) Act

By Anna McCormally, October 19, 2018

What would our society would look like if we embraced gratitude? Not just privately, in gratitude journals and personal prayers… but as a civic practice?

Sound strange? We don’t often think of gratitude as a public act. In her book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, religious scholar and author Diana Butler Bass explores a radical idea: gratitude is social. It connects us to one another. In Grateful, Butler Bass brings this idea to life, giving readers a glimpse of a world where blessings are shared and acknowledged freely, without expectation or debt.

Grateful: Book Discussion with Diana Butler Bass

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, 6:30-8:00 pm EST


This idea of public gratitude — that it is important for society to witness public acts of gratitude, to acknowledge grace (what Quakers might call, “walking in the Light”) — feels very relevant to FCNL’s work. After all, we seek a world where every person’s potential may be fulfilled because we can imagine a world where blessings are not scarce. This is part of Quakers’ prophetic witness for true equality.
How do we get there?

Butler Bass discussed this idea in an interview with Sojourner’s. “Human culture winds up structuring their social contexts on scarcity,” she explains. “And then stuff happens — there’s a war, or there's a drought. This profound experience of scarcity and limits leads to anger and cynicism and hatred and scapegoating.”

In privileged communities, she says, gratitude is often structured in hierarchical ways, around ideas of obligation and indebtedness. But gratitude is not about debt and economic exchange. It’s about grace and understanding that we are all beloved children of God.

What would it look like if we were wonderfully, audibly, grateful for our blessings? If we were not afraid to share them widely—and without collecting debts? I can’t help but imagine that this would be a world where it was easier to protect families struggling with hunger, where we would give humanitarian aid more freely, where economic concerns would not stand in the way of caring for our planet. Could being grateful through all our challenges – acknowledging what we have—make us more compassionate?

We have some work to do to create a grateful society. The task can seem daunting in these challenging political times. And yet it is these very times that make our gratitude, which connects us to others, and to the Spirit, as radical as it is essential.

You can join me at FCNL’s Quaker Welcome Center on October 24th at 6:30 pm to hear Diana Butler Bass read and join in our discussion with her. If you can’t be there in person, consider joining us via Zoom.

Anna McCormally

  • Assistant to the Executive Secretary

Anna McCormally facilitates the work of Executive Secretary Diane Randall by serving as a liaison to constituents, sustainers, and governing committees. Anna holds a BA in Economics from Earlham College, where she completed a literature review and senior thesis on the economics of climate change.