~ Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices ~
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:18
Dear Members and Friends,
In November, I always cut back on the friendly chatter and instead share a poem or a story about the joys of giving thanks. Consider these words of Robert Hayden, an African-American poet who grew up in the slums of Detroit in the 1920s. This is his song of gratitude for his adoptive father, whom he never bothered to thank when he was young.
Those Winter Sundays Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house.
Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices? ~Robert Hayden, 1966
Hayden’s adopted father didn’t always succeed in showing love. The poem is a brief autobiography, and it mentions “the chronic angers of that house.” But in retrospect, the poet is grateful for the man’s quiet faithfulness in carrying out the simple drudgeries that love demands. Despite working hard all week, his father got up early on winter mornings, even on the one day when he could sleep in, and he made the house warm for his family. November is a time to remember those who’ve performed love’s unsung and unthanked offices in our lives, as imperfect as those folks were. Between its pensive holidays of All Saints and Thanksgiving, November bids us reflect back on those all-too-human individuals, with their foibles and their failings, who managed to express their love for us by giving, or teaching, or baking, or mending, or silently standing by and showing their support. As the days grow shorter and gray hints of winter touch the air, let us pause to say thanks for—perhaps even to—those who’ve performed “love’s austere and lonely offices” for us.
In Christ’s Peace, ~Brian
PS: A good place to say thanks is at our Fifty-third Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, to be hosted at Our Lady of Grace on Tuesday, November 20, at 7:30 p.m. In a world divided, interfaith worship is a very rare thing, and a real sign of how gratitude can bring people together!