Monday, September 14, 2015

CONTEMPLATION CORNER--GRATITUDE!; Part 1 of 2; by Ada Melville Shaw; November 1916

I have come to greatly admire the author of this article, Ada Maud Melville Shaw. She was a Canadian immigrant to America; a widow at a young age; a writer of prose, poetry and at least one hymn; a homesteader in her middle years and the editor of The Farmer's Wife magazine from 1919-1928. There is no record that Ada had children or remarried after the death of her Christian evangelist husband. She died in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1937, at the age of 74.

Wisdom from Mrs. Shaw:

I had been telling a friend the story of my venture in pioneering and when she had heard me thru she asked, "Can you tell me what has been your leading thought or feeling thru this whole experience?"

I answered quickly in one word, for my unique experience had left me with a clear-cut impression:


"For what?" pursued my friend.

"Everything! For the privilege of entering upon so difficult  an undertaking; for strength to carry it thru; for the sense of being protected by a Higher Power when, for reasons of solitariness and remoteness from neighbors, I was unable to protect myself; for the whole wonderful experience and what it has taught me of self-reliance, courage, patience."

She looked at me earnestly and then said, "That very quality of gratitude on your part made it possible for you to have those things for which to be grateful."

When I was a little girl I fell into the habit of saying briefly in response to courtesies of friends and playmates, "Thanks!" A saving reprimand came from an elderly woman who said to me, "If a thing is worth receiving at your hands it is worth three words from you. Cannot you take time to say, 'I thank you'?"

Perhaps if I had not been given the first simple lesson to ponder and practice, I might not have been ready for the greater suggestion offered later, to wit, that a grateful spirit invites and even brings to pass further causes for gratitude!

When a farmer's wife hurries thru the morning's work, bathes and dresses two babies, hitches up the team and drives several miles on a hot day, opening three gates en route, that I, her neighbor, may not be lonely, my answering gratitude is in proportion to my understanding of what she has done and my own unselfish desire not to be a burden to her.

When I meet her and her babies at the door, if I have this understanding of what she has had to do in order to be generous to me and if I have truly desired that my burden of loneliness should not be a burden to her, my answering gratitude for what she has done will be the genuine article and have a wholesome reaction upon my own heart. I will not be able to hide my appreciation of her kindness; I will resolve to try more than ever to meet my condition of loneliness so cheerily that it will not be a burden to this little mother; I will find my heart and thought seeking for ways in which to give kindness for her kindness; and as I try to be a better neighbor to her I cannot but be a better neighbor in the community and so a better woman in every way.

The law of continuance of influence sees to it that the good begun by my visitor, who generously gave of her time and strength for me, continues to spread, to act and react until the farther waves of influence have passed beyond our ken [one's range of knowledge or sight.]

Shall we look at the reverse of the shield? Let us suppose these conditions to exist: I was lonely indeed and in my loneliness turned my thoughts inward in self-pity. I looked out toward my neighbor's distant home with the feeling that "Surely she might come to see me! It is a shame I am left alone this way! It is little enough for any one to do. She has horses, she can hitch up. She might!

Either I do not know or do not care that this neighbor has limited strength, more work than she can well do and that it is no small undertaking to manage two babies and two horses and three heavy gates.
The view from our local post office and bank
One day she comes. Do you suppose for a moment that I can receive her with an honest heart of truly sweet and humble gratitude? The very attitude I have been holding of self-consideration, self-pity and criticism, kills gratitude in me as surely as the touch of flame shrivels the petals of a rose. My outward pretense of appreciation might deceive my caller and even myself--for a time--but the end of genuine unthankfulness is the loss of genuine reasons for thanksgiving. People may continue their kindly acts to me for one reason or another but the bond between our spirits is not a living, loving bond and must naturally in time cease to operate. When people are friendless in this friendly world there is a reason not far to seek.

This is the Thanksgiving season of the year. It follows upon the harvest time. Not so few and far between as we wish are those homes that, in the golden autumn lull between summer's work and winter's cold, are looking upon a harvest of disappointment instead of the prayed-for fullness. Can they be grateful? Should they be grateful? What will genuine gratitude in the face of bitter disappointment do for them?

I can best answer by telling you an incident that came to my notice while living on my homestead...