By Bill Lewellis
[This is a revision of a column published in The Morning Call in 2006.]
Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 North might be the better, or at least the less harrowing, way to my destination.
My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice I've devised to help with a daily journey.
I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Thanks on the Threes.
It helps, often in unexpected ways. When I'm inclined to complain, I search between the threes for something or someone to be thankful for.
St. Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." Alice Walker advises us to "live frugally on surprise." Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue. I'd say surprise might often be the beginning of gratitude.
Be surprised, obviously grateful, as you walk thrugh a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.
Be surprised when your car starts in the morning.
Be surprised when you computer works. As a "high-use, low-tech" person, I'm usually surprised, even though my computer works 99% of the time.
I have been surprised when I've been able to connect so quickly with someone by email or text, post something on a blog, download a podcast, find a helpful web site, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.
Using computer technology has been part of my job and my life for many years, but I'm still surprised when it works. And I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.
I have been surprised during the past year how much I have enjoyed retirement, even though I have loved the work I had been doing at Diocesan House (Diocese of Bethlehem) for 24 years.
When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised that words begin to appear on the screen.
Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate the exercise I need to take time to do.
This Thanksgiving I will remember how good I have felt over the past year, after having experienced some six months of ill health during 2009.
I intend to continue to be surprised, to thank God on the threes, to be grateful that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.
"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea ... For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, our friends ... For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve. For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity ... For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice ... We thank you, Lord. (From A Litany of Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer)
[Canon Bill Lewellis, firstname.lastname@example.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]