People in the United States (and Canada) have set aside Thanksgiving as a day for being grateful and counting our blessings—literally,“giving thanks.” Taken to the next level, however, gratitude for life’s blessings also means sharing them with others. At the heart of gratitude is giving. The potlatch or giveaway ceremonies of various Native American nations, predating the arrival of Europeans, exemplify this value. Historically, these indigenous families gave away or shared their own “wealth” or possessions with others in the community as part of the potlatch. Both the Canadian and U.S. governments banned the practice for many years, but it never completely disappeared and has experienced a resurgence since the bans were dropped.
Many other groups in the Americas have included generosity and gratitude within their living traditions. The Andean peoples of Peru practice a form of mutual aid called ayni, which is based on both cooperation and generosity—in essence, helping others who will in turn help them when they are in need. The Maya in Guatemala believe in living in balance with giving and receiving. They make offerings to life, toq, in the form of prayers of gratitude or acts of service, for all that life gives them—air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat.
In the United States, being grateful has not always moved people to share what they have with others. In fact, American beliefs in rugged individualism and competitive economic growth have led to just the opposite. Still, generous impulses have not entirely vanished, and I truly believe that they are making a comeback. We are living through a time of radical shifts in values, from “me first” to sister/brotherhood, from cutthroat competition to generosity of spirit. The old ways that separate and pit people against one another are slowly disintegrating. Once we become fully aware of the web of light that connects all our hearts, there will be no need to speak of giving as a desired value or behavior. Within oneness, there is no separation, and sharing is a part of living, just as automatic as breathing.
We are evolving to a future in which we won’t have to be reminded at special holidays to be grateful or to give generously. We will wake up each morning with thank you on our lips and fall asleep each night counting our blessings. We will live in gratitude, oneness, and sharing. We will live from the heart. That future is Now.