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What good…O me, O life?
That you are here – that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in America – an annual tradition since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving. Since that time our nation has marked the day in times of peace and war…prosperity and poverty. Perhaps that is why I find myself thinking this morning of the words of Walt Whitman.
If you are familiar with the poem you know that Whitman rattles off a long list of grumblings and grievances, pointing to all those things that would lead a person to ask “What’s the use?” or, in the spirit of this upcoming holiday, “What do I have for which to be thankful?” If Whitman were alive today all he’d have to do is turn on cable news to craft a contemporary list of those types of complaints that would prompt the same questions.
But then his brilliant poem offers the answer.
Whitman’s admonishes his readers - that you are here, that life exists – that’s why! He invites us to live in spite of the difficulties surrounding us – what ever those difficulties happen to be – to live with an appreciation for the simple opportunity to present our unique individual identity to the rest of the world. His expansive thinking invites us to be courageous, imaginitive - seeing each day as a gift, full of new possibility. Each day we’re invited to boldy create our own unique contribution to the world around us – large or small, noticed or unnoticed, plain or profound. For that, and for you, my reader; I am especially grateful.