Sharing Our Bounty. We have much even when we have little. We have much of things, but we also have much of presence, fellowship, love to give.
At this time of year, the season of Thanksgiving, I use the word “Abundance” a quite often.
How much does it take to have abundance?
What counts towards abundance?
Here is a dictionary definition from Merriam Webster:
Definition of ABUNDANCE
1: an ample quantity
3: relative degree of plentifulness
Those are relative terms. There is no categorical or quantifiable amount that makes for abundance. What is “an ample quantity? What is “plentifulness”?
And so abundance is more a philosophical or a psychological word than it is a quantifiable word.
For example, Ramprasad, a Bengali poet who lived in the 1700’s, wrote this:
Mother of the Universe, I have no desire to exercise power. I would not even care to be an emperor. Sweet Mother, please grant me two simple meals each day and wealth enough to thatch the palm roof of my clean earthen house, where I offer dreaming and waking as red flowers at your feet. – Ramprasad
“Wealth enough to patch the roof of my clean earthen house”.
For Ramprasad, it requires very little to have wealth, to have abundance; just two meals and some thatch.
I am not as satisfied as he with so little. I want much more. I want tasty food; I want a house with multiple rooms. I want to take vacations to special places. I want much more than he does.
But his words serve as a reminder to me of two important lessons. First, his words remind me that I do not need as many things as I think I need. My desire for things can quickly turn into “I want, I want, I want” for an unending and ever-lengthening list of things.
And second, his words remind me that–beyond a certain amount–things will not bring me happiness. Note, I said, “beyond a certain amount”.
Now, there are people who are living under bridges in our cities because they cannot afford an apartment.
And there are people around the world who make a living by waiting at the local dump for the garbage trucks to unload, and they rush in to the new pile of trash hoping to find small useable items in order to sell them.
And there are people around the world who feed themselves by searching through garbage bins in the alleys that run behind restaurants and houses.
These people have a right to be unhappy; at least, I believe they do. They are victims of an economic system that fails to provide enough well paying jobs for people. And they are victims of a social system that fails to provide an adequate safety net for those already failed by the economic system. A certain amount of things is necessary for happiness, and many people lack two meals a day and enough wealth for thatch.
But things can become an obsession. In my lesser moments, when my grasping selfish nature comes out, I know that I am suffering deeply because I do not have all that I deserve.
In my better moments I remember that I am one of the wealthiest people on this planet, that I have far more than I deserve.
I also know that real financial security does not exist, and that I could easily find myself being one of those who lives under a bridge or finds meals in a trash bin. I know that because I know there is nothing that makes me categorically different than those people. Pure luck makes the difference. Accidents of birth and geography and personal history make the difference–and still could.
For whatever reason, the universe has given me the gift of relative wealth, at least, temporarily. It has given me the gift, for now, of abundance.
There are a few important points about that. The first is that I should be grateful for that gift, because it really did not have to be.
Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who died in 1970, wrote: It is vital that people “count their blessings” to appreciate what they possess without having to undergo its actual loss. Abraham Maslow
For however long I may own things, can I learn to appreciate the fact that I do own them? Can I appreciate them while they are present in my life?
Can I appreciate things that I do not own: The warmth of the sun, the crackling crunch of fallen leaves as I walk on them, the smile of an infant, the smell of the ocean breeze?
More than feeling appreciation, can I show my appreciation to the universe by using what I have to help others? Because maybe–just maybe–I have been given these things in order to help someone else. Maybe I am merely holding these things in trust for the real owner—the universe, God, the Goddess—because the real owner has faith in me to do the right thing with what I have been given.
Joyce Meyer, who I a Christian Evangelist, has said:
The biggest challenge that any of us will ever have: to really get up in the morning and say, “OK God, what can I do to help somebody else today, how can I be a blessing to somebody else?” – Joyce Meyer
She raises an important question: How can I be a blessing to somebody else?
Now the reality is that we are not all wealthy people. We do not all have a large amount of disposable income. But most of us, especially most of us here in The First Church In Belmont, do have some money we can give.
Earlier in this service we passed out Guest At Your Table boxes, which will be returned during January. The money collected in these boxes supports the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee which was founded in this congregation and which partners with human rights organizations around the world. These organizations do a variety of good works, for example, working to ensure that access to clean water is a human right, insisting that restaurant workers receive fair compensation and helping people in Haiti to develop ecologically sound farming techniques so that they can support themselves.
One thing we can do is to use these boxes to give money to the Service Committee so that it can continue its work.
All of us, whether we can give money or not, can still give out of the abundance within our selves.
We can give emotional support through the Caring Connection. When someone is sick or mourning, we can send emails and get well cards. When one is sick or grieving it is important to know that someone cares, and a simple card can make a difference.
We can share love, acceptance and inclusion to every person we meet. We can be the means by which the outcast feels drawn into community.
And we can share spiritual strength. We can share the joy of and appreciation for the gift of life; we can share a belief in love as the creative power of cosmos; and in the midst of despair we can share hope.
All of that is sharing our bounty. We have much even when we have little. We have much of things, but we also have much of our self, of presence, of fellowship and of love to give.
And here is the really remarkable thing: as I give away love I find that I have more to give; as I give away hope to others I find that I have more for myself.
As Ramprasad has taught, let us recognize how little of things it takes to have enough;
As Abraham Maslow has taught, let us count our blessings now so that we can appreciate them while we have them;
As Joyce Meyer has taught, let us find ways to share our gifts with others.
We have much more to give than we can even imagine.
Let us be unstinting in sharing the gifts of love and hope. For even when we are feeling low on these, they still live within. And as we share them, they will grow. And so by sharing them we will truly know abundance.