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A few weeks ago, there were some sea lions out in the cove in front of our house. Usually they head off around the point on their way someplace else, but this bunch stayed around and played for quite awhile. It is one of the amazing things about living in Juneau, all this abundant wilderness right at our doorsteps. Living with wild things can sometimes create problems, such as the number of porcupines hit by cars on our roads and the visits from bears. As a long-time resident, I must admit to a certain amount of amusement at the increasing number of "bear sighting" notices in the police blotter. I sometimes say to myself, "Well, we live in a national forest - what do we expect?"
So often, we have a tendency to see only the problems, the difficulties, in our lives, like "problem" bears. ( I am still trying to figure out where the blessing is in all the rain we had this summer.) Sometimes it helps to get a change of perspective, to try a different way of looking at things.
One way to do this is to try to find the positive side of a situation, as naive as that sounds. But I know from experience, and I'll bet you do, too, just how easy it is to forget about the blessings in our lives.
It can be humbling to stop and think about those blessings, to seriously think about them - about the good things that have happened (even though bad things, terrible things, have, too), about the people who love us and care for us (even though there are people who don't love us and who have hurt us, even though our hearts have been broken what seems like a million times), about the gifts that we have been given (even though things may be rough right now and we can't figure out how they will ever change). This is an attitude of abundance.
Oddly enough, abundance isn't just about things, although the ads on TV would have us think it is-but it's not just about the number of cars or pairs of socks or tubes of lipstick we have. Abundance is also about the intangible things that make our lives rich and worthwhile - light, laughter, love, creativity, wilderness. Of course, those things don't always mean much when you are just struggling to survive-then abundance can seem very far away. But the trick about abundance is that when we open ourselves to it-to the universe, to Spirit, to God, by whatever name we call God - it frees something in us, and we realize we have been living in abundance all along.
That realization gives way to gratitude for the gifts we have received. It is when we live out of an attitude of scarcity, the attitude that says there is not enough to go around, that things tighten up and close up, that we are unable to see what we really have. It is the attitude of scarcity that allows greed and selfishness to flourish, that creates haves and have-nots.
God's love surrounds us. Its abundant, extravagant presence is made manifest in the people around us, in the gifts of the natural world (such as bears and eagles and sea lions - ok, and rain), in the fact that we have jobs and food on the table and warm places to sleep.
More of us would have jobs and adequate food and warm places to sleep, of course, if more of the rest of us would realize how abundantly blessed our lives are, and that there really is enough for everyone. This does not mean that everyone will have everything they want, but that we would all have what we need. This new attitude requires a change of heart and mind, that we open ourselves to God and to each other in a way that most of us are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, in a way that is as frightening as it is freeing.
It grows out of a response of gratitude to the One who created and sustains us and the world in which we live-and when you stop to think about it, it is the only reasonable response one can make to such abundant love.
The Rev. Kathleen Wakefield is the associate rector at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.