The late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church, the long time minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, offered us a mantra: Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are. These are deceptively simple instructions, easy to say and very, very hard to do. In the coming weeks I will be exploring all of these themes in this column and from the pulpit.
I’m starting with wanting what you have because I have a cold and I don’t particularly want it. There is nothing quite so clarifying as a head cold. Day upon day of feeling gross and miserable make you realize how very lucky you are to not feel like that the majority of the time. It is easy to say you are grateful for your health when you are feeling healthy but I don’t feel it viscerally in the way that I do when I’m less than healthy. I, like most of us who are fortunate enough to be able bodied most of the time, take my health for granted. It is something I tick off the list when I write in my gratitude journal not something I crave. I don’t need to crave it because I usually have it. So when my body stops working, just a little bit, I long for the times when it does work; and I am deeply grateful that I don’t have to worry about my health right now. (Of course right now is the key part of that sentence. Like death and taxes, illness and infirmity will get us all).
Want what you have: I have my health. But wait, that is not exactly correct right now. Wanting a healthy, not snotty body is wanting what I have most of the time. And that is good. But it is not wanting what I have. What I have right now is a nose rubbed raw from tissues, a chest that aches from all the coughing and a seriously bad attitude. How am I supposed to want that? And yet want what you have is a prayer that has to work not just when things are going well, but also when they are going wrong. When you don’t have what you want. Being grateful that I am usually healthy, while important, is actually the exact opposite of wanting what I have. So what do I have? I have a runny nose but I’m all stocked up on tissues and I can afford the medication that will eventually make me better. I feel pretty awful but I have a warm home where I can make myself a little illness cave to hide in until I feel better. I’m losing my voice but I’m not on the calendar to preach this Sunday so I don’t have to worry about scratching my way through a sermon on Sunday. I actually have so much. Wanting what you have is not about blind eyes optimism or pretending all is well in your life. It is about focusing on the things you do have, not the ones you don’t. Obviously I’m looking forward to getting better. But in the meantime, I’m choosing to let what I don’t have remind me of all of the things that I do. What do you have in your life to want?