Matt Katz: I'm Matt Katz in from Melissa Harris-Perry.
We're just a day away from Thanksgiving but before we kick off the feast with our loved ones, many of us are prompted with the annual question, what are you grateful for? For some, the standard answers could be things like your family or your good health. In more difficult times, finding something to be thankful for is far from easy, but gratitude can play a crucial role in our relationships with people in our lives. To talk more about the importance of gratitude, Melissa sat down with Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis earlier this week.
She's the senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village of New York City and she's the author of Fierce Love, A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness that can Heal the World. To Melissa, she's Reverend Jacqui.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Reverend Jacqui, we are in a moment, in a season marked by presumed gratitude, thankfulness. I wonder for folks who are going through a hard time, who are experiencing loss, how do you talk about the capacity to express gratitude when maybe what you feel is angry, not grateful?
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: That is such an important thing to wrestle with. I was looking through some middle church music the other day, Melissa our choirs can sing. One clip that just jumped in my feed like God put it there, was Be Grateful, that Hawkins song.
God has not promised sunshine that's not--
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: A little rain mixed with God's sunshine. A little pain makes you appreciate the good times. When I was a little girl learning to sing, that lyric used to make me think, what, what, what, what, we're supposed to be grateful for the bad? Come on, Jesus. Jeanie, let me pray and make everything good. Time goes on and we understand that everything, Melissa, that happens to us, shapes us, teaches us the hot, hot mess of these last five, six years. Do they work too good? I think yes. I think though God doesn't plan this chaotic madness, good people of moral courage show themselves in these times.
I think we could be grateful even for the feelings of anger, even for the feelings of frustration and sorrow because they make us know we're alive and they make us know the space between what's happening and what we hope for in that space.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Talk about why gratitude matters at all no matter where we are socially, politically, personally. Why does it even matter to say thank you?
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Oh, man because it's a gift to us and a gift to each other. There is an orientation I think in our bodies where the thoughts we think, the feelings we inhabit really change our neuro system. Now I'm a theologian, not a scientist but I think it's true. We lean into what is it that I'm thankful for today, what is it that I'm grateful for today? It does something to our chemistry. It does something to our soul. It lights the way in the darkness. That's why it's important. Thank your children for putting their plates away. Thank your spouse, your partner for being kind to you. Thank your coworkers, thank you to a coworker working alone at home during COVID lights their soul on fire.
It's an easy gift to give yourself and a gift to give the universe.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Is it possible to be grateful for maybe not grateful for the harm that is done to us or grateful for the harm that happens to those we care about and love but at least grateful for some aspect of the learning or of the life that exists within that?
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: I think so. Our church burned down almost two years ago now, and every day I think the fire though catastrophic also gave us members from all around the globe who could suddenly come to church because we were digital. It gave us a new confidence about how we can be a community even though we're homeless. My dad is 88 years old. We've had a complicated relationship. I'm so grateful that he took time to read my book in which I tell his business cover to cover. I'm grateful that the hard between me and him made me me. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that I'm me.
I'm grateful for all of the hard things that made the Stacey Abrams and the Melissa Harris-Perrys and the Black voters matters. Latasha all the people who erupted up in the world because the world was so hard. Aren't you grateful for that?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Listen, I am grateful to a whole lot of voters this year. A lot of folks who remember voting is a choice and did not have to choose when their choices were so limited. Honestly, I'm grateful even to those who voted in ways that I might personally disagree with on any given topic or on any given candidate. The fact that those opinions were expressed at the ballot box listen all day, I'm ready. Let's go. Let's do it through the democratic process. I'm grateful for that all day.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: So grateful and because they went to the polls. Especially the young people went to the polls. The madness of January 6th actually did not win the day. I'm grateful that we exposed the absolute ridiculous venom of white nationalist so-called Christianity for what it is. It's like the 12-step community would say we hit a certain bottom that let us know. I disagree. Not that we're powerless but what we need to be powerful toward. We went all the way down into the belly of the beast.
Matt Katz: We're going to pause for a moment but we'll keep the gratitude coming on The Takeaway after the break. We're back with The Takeaway. I'm Matt Katz in from Melissa Harris-Perry. Before we get back to Melissa's conversation with the Reverend Dr. Jacqueline Lewis, we wanted to know what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Jerry Cohen: Hi, this is Jerry Cohen from Corvallis Oregon. I am most grateful this Thanksgiving holiday for the end of a hot summer and the rash of fires we had in the West with the cooling rain now falling all over.
Joanne: Hi, this is Joanne from Denver and I'm thankful for my positive prognosis on recently diagnosed breast cancer. I'm grateful for my two children, one of whom has autism pretty severely and is doing pretty well. I'm especially grateful that Donald Trump is not our president.
Ann: Hi, I'm Ann from Denver and I'm grateful this year for my family. I lost my dad in September and I had my siblings with me to get through that. It made it so much easier. I'm so grateful for my siblings and my family and I'm also grateful that I think of my dad and I feel like he's with me when I'm out in nature walking my dog every morning. I'm so grateful that I have that ability to feel like he's still here with me. Thank you.
Nathan Raku: Hi, my name is Nathan Raku. I'm from Dallas, Texas. I'm grateful for music because music has helped me through many difficult times in my life and it cheered me up when I needed it most. Thank you.
Matt Katz: As always, thanks for your calls and thanks for sharing your stories of gratitude. It's not always easy to find things to be thankful for, especially in the chaos of day-to-day life. For Reverend Jacqui, taking a step back has helped her find gratitude for the little things in life. For her, it starts with family.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: I'll start with my uncle Sam, veteran, 93 years old, married to his wife worked 70 years. She, who's my father's aunt but they're the same age, basically like that family. I'm grateful for Meridian, Mississippi. I'm grateful for the soil, the smells of magnolias. I'm grateful for the family roots there and in Louisville. I'm grateful for the way our family does sweet potato pie and macaroni cheese. I'm grateful for [unintelligible 00:09:58] table trash, tournaments. I'm grateful for my dad's love. I'm grateful for my mommy's legacy, she who died five years ago.
I'm grateful for my husband, who is the nicest, kindest, most nurturing human on the planet. I cannot do my life without Dawn and our grandbabies, Octavius and Ophelia, who are now four and two who delight us, pop, pop, never. I'm grateful for that sound. I'm grateful for my siblings, my little community in the East Village. I'm grateful for the connections I have, Melissa, with people like you in the world, the way we're all in a web, we are interrelated, connected to each other, having each other's backs.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I so appreciate what you just said about your spouse and partner. I got to say I'm grateful for the safety of being able to be imperfect. I'm so grateful for those who look on us with soft eyes and choose to catch us while we're falling.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: What else are you grateful for a friend?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Look, I have two healthy, funny, quirky, totally their own selves, human children in the world, my daughters, and I'm grateful for them every second of every day, even when they're making me crazy. I'm so grateful for them. Grateful that both of my parents-- I got to tell you when we started this journey of the pandemic, I absolutely believed we were going to lose my father. My father is when I tell you he is alive, kicking, making a mess, still being himself in every way. We still have time. That is, oh my gratitude for that both of my parents are still alive and taking breath and thinking and talking on this planet. Yes, I have--
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: That's so special.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Look, I'm grateful that there is plenty of food on my table and that even in the months when I do not pay the suit and loan bill, that there is always plenty of food on my table. I know that not to always be true. I am truly grateful for that.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Isn't it good? See how that just makes your heart grow? I want to tell you another thing. I'm grateful for an encounter I had this week with grace epitomized, two Lenape men, Hadrian and Joe, I want to say their names. Maybe they'll hear this. They are co-directors of the Lenape Center here in New York. They are beautiful souls and they are working with me and my reparations task force honey, because we have one on how we can make repair with our indigenous family, Melissa.
They have stories to tell of broken treaties and broken covenants and broken relationships and that they gave a Black woman, a Chinese woman, and a white woman time for dinner and talk and making possible plans for the future. I'm grateful for fresh starts that are not cast in patina but are deeply embedded in truth and reconciliation. I'm really grateful for that as well.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I just want to leave on a final note. How do we take this gratitude that we have for the small and for the large and manifest it into something valuable in the world? How do we harness our gratitude to do the sometimes hard work?
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: I think it's our calling. There's a vocational sense, Melissa in the work we do and I would say humankind is actually called. Has a vocation to be grateful to notice the taste of a grape bursting in your mouth. To be mindful of it. [unintelligible 00:14:18] would say the squeeze of your child's hand, the humor of your daughters, the kindness of your spouse, the beautiful giftedness of your team. I've got one too. That to me is fuel for love. Fuel for fierce love. Gratitude fuels love. It fuels kindness. It fuels courage and need. It is in the engine that combusts and gives us energy to heal the world.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Reverend Jacqui, as always I love talking to you.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: Thank you.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thank you for joining us. Thank you for bringing your gratitude have a fantastic Thanksgiving in the broadest sense.
Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis: You too.
[00:15:17] [END OF AUDIO]
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