I have had the good fortune of returning to a book I first read a few years ago. Because of a group that I lead, I am looking again at Gerald May’s book, The Awakened Heart. The subtitle of the book is revealing: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need. The book was originally published in 1991, but what May shares is as good as if it were written this year. May died in 2005, so the good thinking and writing he did has come to an end. He has formed and informed me spiritually in a number of ways.
When I was reading for another meeting of my group, I found the following paragraph. It represents the simply, yet profound, way May offers spiritual tidbits. May begins the paragraph in this fashion. “When something very nice happens to you or to someone near you, and you come round to celebrating it, there can easily be a double remembrance.” That is a wonderful sentence that I wanted to ponder.
I like it when May reminds me sometimes there are very nice things that happen to me. I was intrigued why he used the word, “nice,” instead of “good?” If I had written that sentence, I probably would have used the word, “good.” The language of nice is more expressive. It means things like giving pleasure or joy. Nice is enjoyable. It certainly can mean “good.” But it means more than that. For me “nice” adds an emotional touch that is missing in the language of good. Nice feels better than good!
It is easy to think about the nice things that have happened to me. And then I look again. May actually qualifies “nice” with an adverb, “very nice.” I have to smile. That adds even more spice. I agree that nice things happen. But it is special when something “very nice” happens to me. The “very nice” list is much shorter than the “nice” list. I certainly have had some very nice things happen to me. And then I notice one more detail in May’s sentence.
He says to notice it when something very nice happens to me or to someone near me. That gave me some pause. Whom would I include in the list of those “near me?” Of course, it would be family. But does that include cousins? Or is the list meant to be more restrictive than cousins and nephews? As I pondered it more, I knew I would want to include some of my friends on this list of those “near me.” I know some names I would include on this list. But I am also glad I don’t actually have to make that list. That would be difficult.
The heart of May’s first sentence points in the direction of “double remembrance.” When I read that sentence the first time, I did not know what he meant by that phrase. It was only when I read the next sentence, I fully understood. “One is gratitude to God for the joyful event itself; the other is a simple joining of pleasure.” Now I understood the double remembrance: one is gratitude to God and one is gratitude for the very nice thing that happened. It made sense. And it made sense to me that May had poignantly added a spiritual dimension.
As I thought about it a little more, I realized that many people would only have a single remembrance. And perhaps, many of us would have no remembrance at all! Those with no remembrance would probably enjoy some very nice thing. We would enjoy it and when it was over, we would be on to the next experience. For these kinds of people, they are not even grateful. Of course, they are able to enjoy the very nice experience, but they are not grateful. That was a wake-up call for me.
Some of us probably would be grateful for something very nice---the single remembrance. I am afraid this is where I am too often. I am thankful for Gerald May’s perspective. I want to add the second remembrance---namely, my gratitude to God for providing the very nice experience.
Gratitude is free---there is no cost. It is healthy---it is a good antidote to grumpiness or taking something for granted. Being grateful means that I recognize I have been given something. When May says something about a very nice experience, I think he points to something that comes to us as a gift. I could figure I deserve it. I could say I am lucky. I like the idea that very nice things ultimately come our way because of the core generosity of the universe and the God who fabricates this universe.
It is easy to learn to be grateful. I can even learn to be doubly grateful---double remembrance. I want to say “thank you” for the very nice things that come my way. And I want to say “Gracias” to the One who delivers grace in so many forms.
Gerald May adds one final sentence. He says, “The divine One suffers when we do; so also is the joy shared.” I want to learn more and more about this divine One who gracefully works in the world to deliver very nice things. And as I learn, I will also be moved to double remembrance.