A Flight of Gratitude
Feel the Rhythm
One weekend evening, sitting in my easy chair watching TV, I heard a scratching sound. It seems it was coming from downstairs in the den next to my office. There is a wood stove in that den and something was in the chamber just before the stovepipe connection. I wondered if it was a leaf moving to a draft coming down the flu and into the pipe. I simply tried to ignore the noise for a few days.
Eventually, I became concerned that it may be a living … something. I got my tools and prepared a contraption to cover the opening once the pipe was disconnected. My improvised cover was a halved, gallon milk jug. Upon placing over the opening, I saw an arm-like appendage slowly reach toward the white glaze of the covering letting in light that hadn’t been seen in days. It was the hand-like portion of a bat’s wing.
I pulled on some gloves, placed my hand inside a black garbage bag, removed the covering constructed from my fear of what I’d find, and pulled the helpless little creature from his iron prison. And that is when the coolest thing happened.
I took the bagged bat outside and gently uncovered him on the ground in a clearing among the trees in our yard. It was a breezy day, and to be sure he was okay I stood right there with him. The little mammal was weak, but soon opened his wings and allowed the breeze to lift his body into flight. He began to circle me in a tight spiral for several rounds that kept going until he reached an altitude sufficient for going home. I’m convinced to this day that it was a flight of gratitude.
The Melody of the Middle
Through the years, Allen’s dad taught him about the flight with gratitude. Without gratitude we are grounded by the politics of resentment and the politics of vengeance.
I wanted to interview my friend, Rev. Allen Huff, and write about him because I know him as an individual who truly lives, loves, and leads from the middle, a position and stand where one can generously hold what too many quickly lock away in cast iron judgment.
The need to win over others (be right versus do what’s right), Allen believes, comes from fear; and fear is the source of vengeance and resentment. Strong in the middle with a commitment to gratitude is where we constantly find the energy needed to forgive, and be forgiven. To forgive is not about assuming an authority position over another. As Allen’s dad exhorts us, “Be grateful in the presence of the person where you find yourself.” To be grateful for the person, regardless of the circumstance, is a present moment practice.
“Doubt is welcome. But fear? We must learn to manage our fear and to Love like our lives depend on it. And, in truth, they do.” –from Sermon, 4/3/2016
Leading from the middle, in the power of gratitude and unafraid presence free of judgment, is where we practice forgiveness in our individually unique brand of leadership love. And, when you get here, to this middle filled with gratitude, you can now let go of either/or and truly understand, and live, both/and.
Your freedom is your rhythm. Freedom within your own rhythm is not to the left with desire, not to the right with intent. You only find your rhythm in the both/and−by consciously and creatively holding the tension of the middle.
Allen’s dad taught him to cultivate a powerful present-moment strategy for gratitude: to move his attention from “in order to” to “for the sake of.” Attention focused “for the sake of” changes the whole feel of the rhythm that is your Desire & Intent, and your solid, present stand as a leader.
Allen told me that to forgive is not about adding to one’s suffering, but about freeing all parties into the flight of relationship. In the realm of leadership, and as a leader standing firm in the grateful middle, forgiveness is always about more than just the issue or situation at hand. The leader who becomes accountable with forgiveness always sees farther than the manager of simple process−she gratefully holds accountability to the future, our future together.
The challenge we feel with topics like gratitude and forgiveness in the world of our work exists because we so easily judge one another, and assess situations as if there is a requirement to separate into right or wrong, and left or right.
What is it we have to forgive? It is paradox. Where is gratitude found? In the present. Paradox exists in everything we are faced with doing, especially in leading. And leading, in its truest form, occurs in the present and in the presence of others.
Living one’s Trueness, a true life, and the individual and collective rhythms associated, is essential to individual completeness and to collective wholeness in a needy world. Leadership is not about power; power over another. Leadership is about generosity−a practical appreciation (gratefulness) for those you lead, influence, and serve.
Thank you, Allen, for being a champion for freedom, gently showing us the opening that is there for our own flight of gratitude.
Allen Huff is the pastor for Jonesborough Presbyterian Church in Jonesborough, TN. Allen loves nature and is a skilled photographer.