“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” ~Kak Sri
As the season of gratitude arrives – and before the sometimes chaotic season of giving and receiving quickly follows – I wanted to pause and reflect upon the theme of thankfulness.
Over the last few years, I have experienced gratitude in its purest of forms, and the lessons on gratitude most striking to me are during my times with the refugee artisans. “Thank you” seems to be one of the first English phrases they pick up in their ESL classes, and a phrase they use freely, which doesn’t water down the value of their gratitude one bit. Each thank you is sincere and is accompanied by a smile that belies the fact that most came from a history of deplorable poverty, violence and persecution.
Here’s an example of their notion of gratitude: I’ve had many an opportunity to visit the artisans and their families in their humble homes. A typical visit entails them thanking me for visiting, for drinking the tea they’ve taken the time to prepare, for allowing them to host and serve me. What an amazing world this would be if we could all view gratitude as a natural part of the act of giving, and not only as an obligatory etiquette of receiving.
From these interactions, two insights on gratitude emerged for me: 1. Gratitude is an infinite and catalytic resource; one that brings forth and nurtures acts of giving and of receiving. 2. The spirit of gratitude is magnified when it comes from one who has experienced times when there were no gifts to be thankful for, other than the act of surviving. Indeed, our artisans are proof that “gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.”
That “lovely picture” is the beautiful pieces of arts and crafts they produce and sell through the program certainly; but it is more so the “lovely picture” of a new community they have built by connecting to other refugee women and to the many individuals who’ve walked by their side, encouraging them.
One of my fondest memories of the program was at our very first artisan orientation session. Through an introductory exercise, we asked each artisan to tell us a little about herself. Time after time, we heard the familiar refrain of, “Hello, I am (name), I am from (country of origin).” But, then we’d hear, “and I am happy to have made new friends.” By joining The Cloth, they were, of course excited about the prospects of making needed supplemental income; but they seemed more excited to have connected to other women and “new friends.”
Over the last two years, The Cloth has morphed from a program into a true community. Whether a generous donor, a community or retail partner, or an amazing volunteer, all of you have contributed to the success of the program…and for that, we are so grateful!
Thank you for helping the refugees transition from giving thanks for the mere act of surviving to being able to “wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving (Kahlil Gibran).”