As of this morning, 179,000 COVID deaths in the United States, every one of which matters. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Now. How do you feel about beets? Myself, I’m very fond of them. Especially when – as me sainted mother used to do – they’re pickled and put up in grandma’s old clear glass refrigerator dish, with a few hard boiled eggs thrown in.
I have a dear Jesuit friend who cannot abide beets, pickled or not, although he admits they’re a beautiful color. As for how they taste, he says they taste like mud. I wouldn’t know. I’ve yet to eat mud. My friend cannot abide olives either. All I can say about that is “go figure.” You’ll be relieved to know that my friend is OK with hard-boiled eggs. He also likes stories about hard-boiled – and occasionally pickled – detectives. Which goes to show you that people are complicated.
On days – as today, and yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that – when the headlines are too upsetting to dwell on, I’ve found it helpful to practice appreciation. Perhaps it will help you as well. It’s something that can be done discreetly, whenever and wherever you’d like. And unlike yoga, you don’t need special pants or a nifty mat that rolls up.
Speaking of pants, this one time at band camp my cousin and I were walking through the men’s department of the old Hall’s department store on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. We came across a pair of prominently-displayed fluorescent orange golf pants. Fluorescent orange. We asked ourselves whether any man in the world would be brave enough to leave the house in fluorescent orange golf pants. Hearing us, a nearby sales lady smiled and said, “Those pants are all about safety.”
Appreciation isn’t hard, once you get it. Meself, it took me a number of years to get it. (No, I’ve never been to Ireland. Why do you ask?) I kept working at it and one happy day found that I could do it after all.
Here’s one way to practice appreciation. Find something to appreciate. You can start small. For me, right now, the candidates include Rags, napping on the rug beside me, and the sound of birds at the feeder outside, and the particular shade of robin’s egg blue that I’ve used on two of the four walls in my room, and the fact that 75 yes SEVENTY FIVE no it’s not a typo of us showed up for Sunday evening’s Elijah McClain vigil in front of the church and I’m so proud of our parish I could burst, together with a host of other things. I’ve found that once you start appreciating things you find more things to appreciate.
So, once you’ve found something to appreciate – whatever it is – the next step in developing a practice of appreciation is to be appreciative. Let yourself feel the appreciation you feel. Don’t dismiss it or chase it away. Be with it. Attend to it. If you find yourself pulled away mentally or otherwise distracted, don’t worry. Distractions happen. Just call yourself back to appreciating.
The next step, which you need never get to, is to let – not force – your appreciation fill your body. Can you feel it in your fingertips? Toes?
If you’re appreciating a person or a living creature, an additional possible step might be to imagine yourself sending your appreciation to the person or creature you’re appreciating.
One of the many nice things about appreciation as a practice is that you can do it for 30 seconds or for an hour. And you can do it as many times a day as is helpful.
Helpful in hard times? I hope so. Meanwhile, be assured that you are appreciated. And beloved. And that you belong here. In fact, you’re here for a reason.