Executive Director’s Barbara Jordan Celebration Address

Gratitude & Generosity
By Irit Umani

The theme that we chose for this year is “Gratitude & Generosity,” and I can immediately start with my own gratitude for your generosity. Many of you, in so many ways, show us generosity. With your time, with your resources, financial and otherwise, with your spiritual and emotional support, with your LOVE.

Thomas Merton says this about gratitude: “To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything. He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of his love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense grace from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and praise of the goodness of God. The grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay, but by experience. And this is what makes all the difference.”

In the Jewish tradition, the first prayer of each day starts with, “I give thanks to you, existing and living Lord, for reviving my soul today in your mercy.” For many years I challenged myself to be aware of how soon after waking up in the morning, I am reciting this prayer. Some mornings I was good …

When people ask me about our work at Trinity Center and what I like about it, I often say that working at Trinity Center cultivates in us a deeper sense of gratitude for our plenty and for God’s grace in our lives. For if you work, or volunteer, or just visit Trinity Center and you don’t understand how lucky and full of grace and worthy of gratitude your life is, you have not paid attention.

One of the deep teachings that comes with being involved in the Center’s operation is in witnessing the depth of gratefulness that the neighbors we serve so often express. I cannot vouch for myself that if I had to live in the conditions, the circumstances, the reality of the beloved brothers and sisters who enter our doors daily, I would be as faithful and as grateful as many of them are. It’s heart opening and deeply humbling to learn another level of gratitude from people who under our system of values have so much less than we do and so much less than what most of us consider worthy of gratitude.

There is a part of our website that is titled “Pearls from the Streets” with quotes of what we hear from the neighbors who come for our services. Here are some pearls:

“I am blessed. I have family here now – you all are my brothers and sisters, my cousins. We are a family, and that’s a blessing.”

Another one: “Being homeless has taught me humility. Trinity Center has taught me gratitude. To tell you the truth, I am more blessed now than I have ever been.”

Very recently during one of our women’s days a woman was acting out and had to be asked to leave for the day. After she left, another woman stood up and said to all who were in the room: “People who act like they deserve love the least, are the ones who need it the most.” Just like that, in the middle of a regular morning. You think that you are serving others and you feel good about it, and then a person being served brings to you the wisdom of the day. And you feel humbled and grateful.

For the ones who lack the ability to be grateful, life is dark. Nothing is enough, nothing is worthy of joy that is lasting, and always there is more that feels needed in order to reach the point of gratitude. This makes for a difficult life. An attitude of gratitude goes way beyond its own attribute. It cultivates joy and a sense of fulfilment in the now and hope in what the future holds.

One of the ways that we show gratitude is through acts of generosity. Toward one another, family, friends, community and toward the ones we often call “the less fortunate.” You know that this is our yearly fundraiser and I am aiming at the “generosity of your wallet,” yet I wish for us to remember also that feeding, clothing, sharing knowledge, hugging, smiling, offering compassion are all acts of generosity.

We are generous when we forgive. We are generous when we refrain from quick judgement, we are generous when we comfort the sick, the mourner and every time that we stretch out of our comfort zone toward one another. You hear it in the quotes from neighbors that I just shared. Or the next one who said, “Some days it is hard to put one foot in front of the other, but with a Christian family like all of you, it makes it easier.”

This evening I am asking for your financial generosity. I promise you that we run Trinity Center efficiently and responsibly, with only four and a half paid positions for tons of work, activities and services. I testify to you humbly, yet truthfully, that we are indeed grateful and generous, and I ask that you please bless us with answering this evening’s call for generosity.

And as you bless, so may you be blessed.