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We Are Guests in Each Others’ Lives

“We are guests in each others’ lives,” a wise friend once told me. It was one statement in a much larger conversation between a whole gaggle of agitated people in a hot and crowded room. It was a plea for folks to be more gentle and understanding with one another. At the time, that friend and I were on different sides, seeing things from different directions; and may be that today we still do not fully agree. But then as now, the call for more loving-kindness in the world was well in order. It always is.

I talk a lot about hospitality – if you haven’t heard me yet, don’t worry, you will soon. But the virtue of being a good guest is perhaps just as overlooked in our time as that of being a gracious host. The spiritual practice of being a guest is that of gratitude – our giving thanks for being welcomed, accepted and invited in, completes the circle that began in hospitality. As with any gift, it takes two steps to give completely: first, gratitude must be given, and second, it must be received.

We are guests in each others’ lives. For this reason we ought to be gentle and understanding with each other, and also because of this, we owe each other our gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of letting my life touch yours, for the honor of knowing you, for the saving grace of not having to dwell on Earth alone.

We have so much, as humans, to be thankful for; so much to thank each other for. As we

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enter this month which, in the United States, is set aside particularly for Thanksgiving, may we attend with particular fervor, to the practice of gratitude.

In an effort to live from a place of gratitude, our congregation has undertaken a challenge we are calling “Simple Gifts”. As I explained in a sermon last month, the goal of this effort is that we should renew the meaning of our December gift-giving holidays by spending less and loving more. As the commercial shopping season builds to its zenith over the course of this month and the next, I hope you will join me in thinking creatively about ways to show the people you care about the depth of your feelings, ways that are not driven by dollar amounts or clever marketing

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campaigns. In the coming weeks at church we’ll be working on ways to share some of those creative gift ideas.

Just as in the circle of hospitality and gratitude, this project also has two parts to it. Because when we rise to this challenge and allow our hearts to guide us in our practice of giving this year, we’re going to have a joyful and meaningful holiday with some money left over at the end. As a congregation, we are going to collect that money that we no longer need, and we will donate it to a non-profit, to be selected by the children and youth of our congregation. (They’ll be voting on which one very soon.) In this way, we will join together to live out our gratitude for all we have received, and to let our young people lead us in the spiritual practice of giving. I look forward to hearing your creative ideas for simple gifts, to learning what agency or project our children select for us, and for adding my family’s unused holiday money to the our congregation’s collective offering. In life, each of us is both a guest, and a host. This year, let us allow our hospitality to grow out of our gratitude.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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