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ARTHUR FOOTE II (1911-1999). Minister of Unity Church in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1945 to 1970; chairman of the Unitarian Universalists Association commission which produced Hymns for the Celebration of Life. Read More…
Every day of my life I live beholden to others.
I am beholden to those who have been guardians of the human heritage of knowledge and wisdom, stewards of the truths, beauties, and goodnesses which are our human legacy: my life is wondrously enhanced by those who have gone before.
I am beholden to creative spirits—wordsmiths, smearers of pigment, chiselers of marble, midwives of music—all who have opened my eyes and ears to beauty; and to those thinkers of deep thoughts, who have looked beyond the known into the unknown: their creations and wisdom guide my way.
I am beholden to all those who have sought new truths, confident that new light will break forth to illumine our way into the future : they have enabled me to live more adequately upon the earth.
I am beholden to those who from my cradle have befriended me, whose kindnesses have renewed my hope, whose encouragement has restored my faith, whose love has taught me the meaning of love and enabled me to be more loving: they have made the world seem a friendlier place and given meaning to my days.
O my soul, seeing that I am so deeply in debt, shall I not give thanks for the richness of life and the goodness of being? Shall I not accept the days of my years with gladness, and endeavor to give back in return into the lives of others what is in my power to give, through kindness and cheerfulness, thoughtfulness and honesty, loyalty, bravery and honor?
THE ECHO OF OUR RESOLVE
Prayer is the serious, thoughtful persistent endeavor to put our lives at the service of the best. It is the deliberate and systematic effort to develop inner resources adequate to meet life’s demands.
Frederick May Eliot (1890-1958)
I acknowledge my need to grow quiet and composed, in order that I may become whole and live with clearer intention. Under the weight of daily pressures and many responsibilities, I have dissipated my powers and become fragmented.
How often have I missed opportunities to help another person. I saw the need, but irresolution delayed me; or, preoccupied, I didn’t see the need until it was too late.
How often have I lacked trust in my own productive capacities, and in my powers of reason and goodness.
So let me, in communion with the mysterious and creative and constructive energies that forever surround and flow through me, cultivate the courage to be more faithful to my own best. Let me gain sounder knowledge of myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my good and my evil. Let me gain truer knowledge of others, also, in their likenesses to me and their differences from me, so that I may deal with their real selves, measuring their feelings by my own, yet patiently considering their varied lives and thoughts and circumstances. From false judgments, misplaced trust and distrust, misplaced giving and refusing, misplaced praise and rebuke, let me henceforth be successfully delivered.
From this quiet time, let me go forth afresh to meet the pressures and responsibilities of this day, ready to persevere though success and failure, through good report and evil report, affirming my faith in myself and in humanity, and celebrating my confidence in the goodness of life.
AN ACCOUNTING OF GRATITUDE
The grateful soul of the wise person is the true altar of God.
Philo Judaeus (20 BC-c. 50 AD)
I say to myself: Be thankful.
Be thankful for the happiness you have known in times past, the moments of mirth and ecstasy, the years of health. How many of your dreams have come true; promises, long deferred, have so often at last been made good.
Be thankful for the dearness of your loved ones, the fidelity of your friends, the courtesy and kindness repeatedly shown you by total strangers.
Be thankful that your fears have again and again proven groundless, that you have survived so many close calls, so many narrow escapes; and that the same good fortune has generally followed your children in their misadventures, and your friends likewise.
Be thankful not only for the joys that have accompanied your way, and the unnumbered gifts of a kindly providence. Master the harder art of gratitude for life’s sterner lessons. You have known pain, pain that has given you warning of unseen dangers. You have known failure, failure that shattered false hopes of easy victory, and toughened your spirit for renewed efforts. Having made mistakes, you have learned important lessons. Having encountered obstacles, you have found courage and endurance to surmount them. Having known sorrow and loneliness, you have discovered that even these have quickened your sympathy, and taught you your need of others.
Be thankful, then, that so much you have not sought and would have by-passed if you could, nonetheless has proved enriching to your experience. Even in life’s dark labyrinthine ways and bitter moments, the person of faith and hope can trace the workings of a mysterious wisdom, and impartial providence, a more than human love.
I but open my eyes—and perfection, no more and no less,
In the kind I imagined, full-fronts me, and God is seen God
In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the soul and the clod.
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Let me be open-eyed: observant of the perpetual miracle of life and love on this fragment of a star flung across the infinity of space; appreciative of earth’s symphony of color, harmony of shape, and ubiquity of beauty; alert to the wonderfulness of little children, the strength and dignity in ordinary men and women, the unsung heroism—to all the gratifying nuances of the human story, to every intimation of divinity in the lives around me.
Let me be open-eared: tuned in to all the varied music of the world: to human melodies and to the songs of wind and water, insect and bird. Let me be responsive to the call to adventure, the summons to high endeavor, the appeal to conscience; and to the falling of human tears, the anguish wrenched from human hearts.
Let me be open-minded: receptive to unfamiliar thoughts, to strange viewpoints, and new ideas, making doubly certain to give fair hearing to all that challenges my complacency, my prejudgments, my unexamined assumptions.
Let me be open-handed: ready to share earth’s bounty, to meet people, stranger as well as neighbor, with trust, expecting to find them where they ought to be. Let me eschew all miserly clutching, all grasping at life as though it were not as blessed to give as to receive.
Let me open my mouth: not in foolish boast or much speaking, but to utter the word of courage, the word of cheer, the word of sympathy and hope. Let me sing with the psalmist:
O God, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.