My Psalms 135
All that I Am is Grateful
Teach a group of preteen-aged boys spelling and the incongruities of the English language become very apparent! The lesson was on homonyms. Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. I dreaded the lesson because…well, boys at this age are not known for appreciating the subtleties of life. It was before the technological advances of speak-typing so putting down their thoughts on paper required paper, pencil or pen, and the ability to spell so someone could read their written thoughts. Most in the class felt this was a great deal of effort, especially since those written thoughts were usually received with a big red mark that did not indicate pleasure or satisfaction!
Introducing the lesson received the anticipated the moans and groans. “Stay with me and let’s do the lesson,” I implored. A student responded. “I knew when I overslept this morning it was not gonna be a great day!” The rest of the class moaned in agreement. I turned and wrote the students sentence on the board. “Let’s pick out two words and see if they have a homonym,” I suggested. [Technically I should have said “homophone” but, give me a break, I needed these kids interested!] The class got on board and suddenly they were offering to write on the board. “I” was paired with “eye”; “morning” with “mourning”. Then I pointed out we had one word with three other words that sounded like it but were spelled differently. I wrote “knew” on the board and then wrote “new”, “gnu”, and “nu”. Of course the boys claimed the Greek letter shouldn’t be included but they were now interested.
The spelling words from this lesson were “great” and “grate”. The class discussed the two spelling, the rules of spelling involved, and then one asked a very interesting question. “Why is there such a difference in being grateful and something being grating?” Another young hand popped up. “When we grate on your nerves, are you grateful because we are great?” They class snickered and then, fortunately for me, the bell rang and they hurried to lunch.
Most religions and spiritualities emphasize the importance of our developing an attitude of gratitude for all life experiences. My young students, though, were correct in noting the difference between feeling great and being grateful. When life proves grating, it is really hard, sometimes impossible, to remember to be grateful. Likewise, when things are going great, we are often too busy being “in the moment” to stop and take the time to give thanks, displaying our gratefulness.
Cicero proclaimed “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Throughout time, mankind has interpreted creation in understandable terms. After all, it serves very little purpose to speak a language to someone who cannot understand it. Thus, the theological writings, spiritual anthologies, and even the history of the world all are illustrated in terms of the human personality. It is not surprising, then, that deities were given human personalities.
The personality is a set of emotional qualities, how we behave. Usually it is defined as being a person but in truth, it is the unique set of behaviors that set us apart from another, that which gives us our identity. Interestingly enough, the term “person”, the root of the word personality, comes from something which hid the identity. Originating from the Etruscan “phersu” or mask, the word traces its etymology from the Greek Persephone” to the Latin “personare”, meaning to sound through, and the later “persona” which referred to a part in a play, as well as the French “persone” which meant a human being.
The words “great” and “grate” are a bit less complicated. The Latin “gratus” described something pleasing or for which one was thankful. Latin declinations evolved the word into “gratitudinem” or thankfulness which led to the French gratitude. The word “grate” has its lineage in the French word “gratter’ which meant to rub or annoy. While seeming to be so very different, most philosophy advocates learning from one’s mistakes. That means that those experiences which are grating or annoying are actually opportunities to learn something and that should be considered an experience for which one is grateful.
The complex organization of behaviors, character, individual markers, cultural norms, and attitudes of one single personality leads to our own individual identity. Within all of these, though, are those common traits, tendencies, and needs that characterize all human beings. The deities of the world are given human characteristics and personalities and yet, it is the hope of every believer that those same deities see not with their eyes but with their hearts. Perhaps when we will clothe ourselves in an attitude of gratitude, then the world will be adorned with love and peace.
My Psalm 135
Dear Maker and Spirit of Love,
Let my life be one lived in grateful praise.
Let me daily with love my voice raise.
Help me ignore the crazed;
Help me overlook the painful days;
Help me be deaf to the nays.
Let gratitude be more resounding phrase.
Let me see my fellow man in a peaceful haze.