Gratitude 2017; and “The One We Feed”


Angelica Cantante, Orchestra Hall, All Is Well, Minneapolis, Dec. 16, 2017


If you read no further than this paragraph, do take seven minutes to watch Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude. I first saw this piece of film in 2012. Its message is powerful and timeless.


At this season, December, 2017, we are a nation at war against each other. A place where a few “winners” win, and everyone (including the winners) stand to end up as losers….

I think of that old proverb, often attributed to a Native American elder: the “Two Wolves” inside all of us. It is a proverb full of wisdom.



There is great good, all around, still. You don’t need to look far. There is reason for Gratitude.

There’s this gift from “anonymous” I saw on the blackboard at my local coffee shop, last Saturday morning. The sketch is a day brightener, possibly the work of some high school kid, gifted in art. I’m not the only one who has noticed it. I predict it won’t be erased any time soon.

Blackboard at the Coffee Shop Dec. 16, 2017

Thursday I saw an acquaintance writing a note above the sketch. I know he’s facing a very serious surgery very soon. He wrote: “This drawing is awesome: who?” A simple, anonymous act lifted someone’s spirit.


My list of positives for 2017 is long, thus “gratitude” in the subject line. From my list I choose some examples possibly gifts to yourself for the New Year:

There’s the book, FIRE IN THE VILLAGE, by my friend, Anne Dunn. Anne is Native American, and she wrote this book of 75 short stories “to celebrate my seventy-fifth journey around the sun.” One of the stories, “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, can be found here, an earlier post at this space. (Information on how to order the book is at the link.)

AND SO IT WAS by Annelee Woodstrom is another gift. Annelee is another long-time friend, who wrote this book, her third, during her 91st year 2016-17. Annelee grew up in Hitler’s Germany (born 1926), and has lived since 1947 in northwest Minnesota. Here is my description of the book and of Annelee. She experienced the worst, and made the best of it long term, and has many life lessons to share.

GADSDEN’S WHARF: Some years ago I was privileged to meet Rosa Bogar, a tireless advocate for community. This Fall came her most recent message, about an event at Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston SC – a place where most of her ancestors arrived as slaves in the long ago. Rosa grew up in Orangeburg SC, with its own very troubled history in the civil rights era. She has long lived in the Twin Cities. Her most recent project is here: Gadsden’s Wharf001. Here is more about this reminder of the past, which is Rosa,s effort towards a better country and world for us all.

All three women are powerful witnesses for all of us.

Not to leave out the men:

PHANTOMS OF THE FRENCH FUR TRADE is a three volume scholarly work by Timothy Kent of Ossineke MI. Timothy’s personal biography is most fascinating. I got to know Timothy through his extraordinarily effective explanation of the Voyageur life. He lived the life, so as to write authentically about it.

You won’t reach Timothy by e-mail! Yes, he’s very civilized.

My friend, Jerry Foley, who has two degrees in history, and is French-Canadian by ancestry, has read the books and says about them: “Timothy Kent’s books are very detailed and easily readable stories of French Canadian families and of the fur trade, written by a person who loves this history. The books are insightful and well worth reading.”

A SONG IN THE DARK. Yesterday, at Orchestra Hall for a marvelous “A Minnesota Orchestra Christmas: Home for the Holidays”, I was scanning the program booklet and came across a marvelous Essay by noted pianist and accordionist (and fellow French-Canadian) Dan Chouinard. His comments about Holidays, and music, strike a chord. You can read them here: Dan Chouinard001

FINALLY, THE YOUNGSTERS – those of my school age grandchildren’s generation.

Last Saturday, at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis (photo leads this post) we heard over 200 2nd through 12th graders in concert as part of Angelica Cantante. In the group were three of our grandkids. Their sister, not as musically inclined, sat with us).

“All Is Well”, the second to last number sung by the massed choirs, particularly spoke to me. Here is a version of this song sung in 2012 by another youth choir.

Of course, “all” is not necessarily “well”…probably even amongst some of the choristers, or those of us in Orchestra Hall, or anywhere, for that matter.

But in that assembled group of youngsters I saw the essence of what our community, in the largest sense, must do to survive as a society: we must be a team, working together. At this point in our history, our country is not a team.

Merry Christmas.

In the spirit of the season: grandkid creche from some years back.


As often happens in my tiny corner of the universe, as I began composing this post, into my e-mail inbox, at 5:07 p.m. Dec. 13, 2017, came a remarkable article from the New York Times, “The Heroes of Burial Road”. The full headline is this: “The Heroes of Burial Road: Many Haitians can’t afford funerals, and bodies end up in anonymous piles. These men offer them some dignity.”

The narrator in Gratitude talks about our great gift of clean water, which we take for granted; the heroes in the NYTimes article give simple dignity to people who cannot afford even a simple funeral.

We take so much for granted in the United States. We feel so entitled. But look a little deeper. Every U.S. community has similar stories of people who have died without family, without resources.


There is much for every one of us to consider, at this Christmas, 2017.

Last Sunday, Janice Andersen in our church newsletter gave some perspectives, worth reading: Advent, Janice Andersen001 Janice, and many like her, have been inspirations to me for many years. The bridge that precedes and ends this segment was at a Just Faith Retreat we attended with her in May, 2005. Janice is a powerful witness to the best in each of us. Consider people like Janice as the bridge to other communities with needs.

There are so many stories, in each and every one of our lives.

Let’s get to work.


Christmas Card 1977

The phrase within the card:

“Then said a rich man.
Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered,
You give but little
when you give of
your possessions. It
is when you give of yourself that you
truly give.”

Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

Dedicated to Dad, born 110 years ago today, Dec. 22, 1907. Died Nov. 7, 1997

from a great friend in Europe: To be sure, Mr. Bernard, very discouraging indeed but thanks for “keeping on keeping on”!

Aneurin, known as Nye, Bevan (UK politician, member of parliament & holder of various cabinet positions) said” “The whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century, is being deployed to enable weath to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power.”

That art has been further advanced by the U.S. in the 21st century. Many have pondered why so many are so easily persuaded to vote against their own interest.

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