The heart of generosity and gratitude is recognizing that everything is a gift.  We can’t earn anything.  We can’t necessarily make anything appear in front of our door: food, love, connection, justice, joy…  When we recognize the gifts that we’re given, when we experience and swim in gratitude, then we can actually begin to be generous: recognizing that nothing was every really ours to begin with.


The past weeks a song by folk artist Carrie Newcomer, The Work of our Hands, has been speaking to me – reminding me of how to be grateful and full of gratitude for those I encounter each day – who sweep the floor, clean the toilet, make me a coffee, teach my children, process the debit card transactions at the gas station and who clean the park I enjoy.  I offer it to you this morning as a reminder of the depth of the gifts that we receive each day – in particular through the work of the hands that are all around us – those who are paid (or under-paid) for their service, as well as those who do it gratuitously and/or who go un-noticed.




Today while it rained,
I washed the jars,
Then I lit a flame,
Set the water to start.
At the end of the day
Lined up to cool and seal,
Twelve pints of spiced peach jam,
Twenty jars of dill beans canned,
From an old recipe,
That my mother gave to me,
Because it good to put a little bit by,
For when the late snows flies,
All that love so neatly canned,
By the work of our hands


They lay hands on boards and bricks,
And loud machines,
With shovels and rakes,
And buckets of soap they clean.
And I believe that we should bless,
Every shirt ironed and pressed,
Salute the crews out on road,
Those who stock shelves and carry loads,
Whisper thanks to brooms and saws,
Dirty boots and coveralls,
Bow my head to the waitress and nurse,
Tip my hat to farmer and clerk,
All those saints with skillets and pans,
And the work of of their hands.


Laid out on the counter,
Pulled up out of hot water,
So everyday, so faithful and true.


I make something barely there,
Music is little more than air,
So now every year,
I’ll put by tomatoes and pears.
Boil the lids and wipe the lip,
With a callused fingertip,
And I swear by the winter ground,
We’ll open one and pass the thing around,
Let the light catch the jar,
Amber gold as a falling star.
It’s humble and physical,
It’s only love made visible,
Yes now I understand,
This is the work of our hands.