How does Gratitude Change the World? A Prayer for Anger by Trisha Arlin
This prayer comes from liturgist Trisha Arlin, who writes, “I wrote this incantation because I found myself feeling furious at all the seemingly contradictory feelings of gratitude, anger, love, hope and despair that I’ve been feeling for months, and especially since the murder of George Floyd. I think this can be read to yourself. Or, if you wish to present it at a service, you may want to assign the more personal lines to one reader and the incantatory lines of murder and awfulness to a chorus of individual or group voices. And thank you for listening. Amen.”
How does Gratitude Change the World? A Prayer for Anger
Baruch Atah Adonai,
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
I attend services on Zoom
And almost every single time we are asked by the rabbi,
What are you grateful for?
(A reasonable question)
Write it down in the chat room, she says
And a long list from the congregation rolls out
Of family members
And social justice leaders
And sour dough bread recipes.
I am also grateful
For the usual stuff
The thing is
I hate this question.
I really hate this question.
I am annoyed not grateful.
I am annoyed and not grateful on a daily basis,
I am annoyed and not grateful when I wake up in the morning
and annoyed and not grateful when I go to sleep at night.
I am angry!
Modeh Ani? Hell no.
Bedtime Shma? I forgive no one!
I am angry
but the people who deserve my anger and resistance
do not know or care that I exist.
So I take it out on people who I know mean well
like my rabbi.
Because damn it
This country was founded on genocide and slavery and murder
And it continues:
Rayshard Brooks was murdered
George Floyd was murdered
Breonna Taylor was murdered
Atatiana Jefferson was murdered
Philandro Castile was murdered
Freddie Gray was murdered
Eric Garner was murdered
Sandra Bland was murdered
Michael Brown was murdered
Tamir Rice was murdered
Trayvon Martin was murdered
Emmet Till was murdered
The disproportionate numbers of black COVID deaths;
The mortgages that were turned down;
The jobs that weren’t offered;
The food deserts that led to malnutrition;
The schools with no budgets;
Being afraid to drive or walk or leave the house or breathe.
Murders of opportunity and hope,
Murders of body and soul.
Yeah, I’m angry!
And I’m ashamed of all my white privilege that allows me to know about this
And do nothing
If I want
Except feel bad
And write the occasional check
And mostly not pay attention.
I’m so angry at myself.
So sorry, no gratitude in the chat room today from me.
the things that I am grateful for that you are so curious about,
why do I have to announce them?
You want me to spread my gratitude all around like manure
In this garden of good vibes?
And please, don’t tell me yours,
I am neither interested nor moved by your gratitude!
Except of course I am,
I love you
I love you all,
I like it when people are happy.
I like it when people share their happiness,
But not on demand
Not in a chat
And not every week.
Not this week.
I am happy to share my happiness when it occurs.
When it occurs.
But my gratitude is not for tourists.
The planet is on fire,
Sickness of all kinds surrounds us and
People are being killed by racists and idiots.
Cruelty goes unpunished
The greedy and stupid are in charge
And we can’t get away from it.
No distractions work for long.
Which is probably a good thing.
It feels hopeless
I suspect that’s a white privilege, too.
Protests and Solidarity help
And I see change happening.
But it is a fight that never ends
So screw gratitude.
There is a parable in the Sefer Ha-Aggadah,
The Book of Legends,
About a king who had a beautiful orchard
Which, when he had to leave for a year,
He left in the hands of a keeper.
And when the king returned,
The orchard had been terribly neglected,
Overgrown with thorns and thistles.
He was going to tear the orchard down
But looking down at the thorns
He noticed among them
A rose-colored lily.
And the king said
“Because of this lily, let the entire orchard be spared.”
And the rabbis say,
“Likewise the whole world is spared, for the sake of Torah. “
And if I acknowledge the beauty in my life, what will be spared?
If I have hope, will institutional racism disappear?
How does my gratitude change the world??
I’m asking because I really want to know.
Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Thank you for listening.
Liturgist Trisha Arlin is author of Place Yourself: Words of Prayer and Intention, available at Dimus Parrhesa Press. Find her on Patreon, here.
Thank you for this. The duality of our lives are often so overwhelming that we cannot figure out what we feel or what to do about them when we do. I am using this entire piece as part of my women’s circle with the gratitude theme this month to demonstrate that gratitude, like love, is gritty and hard and rough and full of conflicting emotions…and that this is holy too.