Priedhorsky: Generosity And Gratitude In This Holiday Season


Board President
Unitarian Church of Los Alamos

As the holiday season closes in, what are the Unitarians thinking about? Unitarians certainly do not all believe the same things. The vision statement of the Los Alamos church begins “We celebrate diversity of belief and seek unity in action.” Congregants are a mix of many beliefs, or none at all. But we have a great deal in common, as we come together to bring justice and compassion to our congregation, the community, and the world.

The church’s theme for November has been Generosity. This is indeed an apt theme for this time of year, what with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that emphasize generosity. At the Unitarian Church, we have been exploring generosity by listening to the ministers’ thoughts from the pulpit. Going deeper, we have considered generosity in the small circles that we call Soul Matters. In the sanctuary of those groups, we listen to what generosity means to each of us.

We all think we know what generosity means. According to the dictionary, generosity means “being liberal in giving; openhanded; kind.” So far so good – so why is it worth taking a whole month to think about generosity? Because there is more to it. Generosity is not just something we do for others ­– it also changes ourselves. It moves us away from a winner-take-all view of life, which is easy to fall into in this fast-paced modern life. So generosity transforms. It also connects people in a world that is epidemic with loneliness. By showing that you care, you make yourself less alone. And finally, generosity challenges. It makes you ask yourself whether you really need all the things that you have gathered, and asks you to suspend judgement about who you are giving to. We often give to persons or causes that are not perfect, but nonetheless need your generosity. Generosity is thus not just about kindness, but also about bigger things – transformation, connection, and challenge.

When our small group talked about generosity, a light went on in my head – generosity has a partner called gratitude. When we feel gratitude, generosity comes more easily. Life is never easy, but, on any given day, a little reflection reveals much to be grateful for ­– our friends near and far, the bright voices of children, the wisdom of elders, the actions that bless the world, and the hard work that is the only way to make a difference in the world. We can be grateful even for the ground on which we walk, a ground billions of years in preparation before we set foot upon it. When life gives to us, we are inspired to give back.

Our pre-Thanksgiving Sunday service closed with this benediction: “From you I receive, to you I give; together we share, from this we live.” That is what the Unitarians have been thinking about as the holidays approach – generosity and gratitude. Next month, we will consider Mystery. If you feel moved to join us, our doors are open for you – see

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