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Mostly Grateful

“Some say that we get what we deserve in life, but I certainly don’t believe it. We certainly don’t deserve Bach. What have I done to deserve the Second Brandenburg Concerto? I have not been kind enough; I have not done enough justice; I have not loved my neighbor, or myself, sufficiently; I have not praised God enough to have earned a gift like this… Since we have not earned Bach—or crocuses, or lovers—the best we can do is express our gratitude for the undeserved gifts, and do our share of the work of creation.”

–Robert R. Walsh, from the collection Noisy Stones


When I first read these words from Bob Walsh, I could not immediately bring the Second Brandenburg Concerto to my mind. (In case you can’t either, you can listen to a piece of it here.) Baroque music is not exactly my strong suit. But once I found a recording of it and sat down to listen, I found that I could enjoy it, and not just as something casually pleasant – the way in which I normally experience classical compositions. I could relish Bach’s work more deeply because I had been invited, challenged almost, to listen to it by someone who so clearly loved it. Robert Walsh lifted this music up together with the joys of romance and the beauty of spring flowers; knowing that drew out just a little more of my attention, and helped me to hear through another person’s ears.

Of all the world’s great joys, this is the most wonderful: that we have other people with whom to share the things we love. And there is so much to love in the world. So rather than focus on what is deserved and undeserved, earned and unearned, I am drawn far more to the subject at the close of the quote above: gratitude. Not, ‘what do I deserve?’ but ‘where does my gratitude lead me?’ What piece of the work of creation will be big enough to match the wonder and appreciation I feel at this ever-spinning world?

Of course, life is not all gratitude or the makings of it. Yesterday I walked down the street with a cold, strong wind cutting through me. The temperature was fluctuating between the low teens and the high single digits. It had technically been spring for almost a month. Normally, I’m

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a “make the most of whatever season it is,” guy, proud to be able to handle whatever winter dishes out. But I have now officially worn out my appreciation for the cold.

No, we don’t always (or often) get what we deserve – for good or for ill. We can only, must only, be grateful for what it is possible to be grateful for, and continue on in the face of those things which are beyond our gratitude. Sometimes those are things that need changing, and can be changed. The weather is usually not one of those things, although if the harsh and erratic winter we’ve had finally wakes enough of us up to the climatic disruption that we humans are inflicting on the earth and ourselves, perhaps it can be. But for the things we can’t change, and can only endure, we have the opposite of gratitude: lament, and perhaps commiseration with those who share the affliction.

So today I take a moment to lament the all-too-slow turning of the season. I load the NOAA webpage and shake my fist at the 7-day forecast. But only for a little bit. I, and you, have much more to do in the work of creation. And much more to be grateful for – the Second Brandenburg Concerto, and so much else besides.


In Faith,

Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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