Trust and gratitude go together. When you have gratitude toward someone or something then you also have trust in it. It is worth asking ourselves on a regular basis what we are grateful for. In what do we trust? I write this (the first draft anyway) while in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. The wind is blowing hard enough that we are essentially bound to the campsite for the afternoon. This has given me time to read about the interplay between trust and gratitude in “Active Hope” by Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy. One campmate, Rollie, is chopping wood for tonight’s fire. I’m grateful for his efforts. Another is in his hammock reading my book. I’m grateful for his attentiveness. My ego thanks him as well. I’m grateful for the wind.
Gratitude and trust. Two sides of the same coin possibly. How do these two concepts inform who I am as a spouse, father, son, teacher, and citizen and member of society? How do these become chapters in the story that we each enact? When I was teaching at a private school I was initially taken aback by students who would thank me at the end of a class. It could be that they were thankful the lesson was finally over. Or maybe it was rote learned politeness and respect for an elder. I’ll choose to think it was genuine. And expressing this gratitude was an expression that then demonstrated that there was trust in me as a teacher. I can at least hope this was the case. It is easy to think of this as a one-way street from student to teacher, but the act of teaching requires tremendous trust on the part of the teacher in his or her student. Inspired teaching requires the teacher to make himself or herself vulnerable to the student. This is an act of trust. Maybe it is for that that my students were expressing their gratitude. I must have had gratitude toward them as well if I trusted them to put their trust in me.
Two nights ago, a young man walked spent an hour in a bible study group and then pulled out a gun and opened fire killing nine. His motive was purely racial and has admitted he wanted to kill black people. Trust and gratitude. The political left and right immediately take sides and the story morphs depending on who is analyzing and recounting. I listen to some pundits and talking heads expertly contort themselves and their viewpoint to find any other motive than race to explain this act. Is this an attempt to avoid a difficult conversation, a difficult truth and conversation or a need to turn the conversation back on to something they can relate too such as their own Christianity? Trust and gratitude. In these conversations I am finding none expressed. Counterintuitive as it might seem, maybe this is where the conversation about race, intolerance, and violence should begin. In what ways can we as a nation find that we have gratitude to one another—and therefore, can begin to build trust?