Do it Like the Chickens -- Living Gratefully


Adapted from an interview with Brother David Stendl-Rast

If I think back to how I grew into grateful living it’s really from my family, from my Grandmother already. I remember my Grandmother saying, “You have to do it like the chickens.” And we have a picture of me when, hardly bigger than the chickens, and we are surrounded by these chickens. And she said, “You have to do it like the chickens.” Every time they drink a little, one drop, and then they thank God. Because this is how chickens drink. They pick up a drop, and so that it runs down their throat, they have to throw their head back. But my grandmother said, “They look up and they thank God every time they take a little drop.” So the whole atmosphere in the family was to be grateful. I remember when my mother lived the end of her life in New York City and when we were walking in New York together and there was a little piece of bread lying on the sidewalk. She was old and couldn’t bend so well, but she would go and pick that up and put it on some ledge somewhere. One can’t let bread lie on the sidewalk. It was a whole culture of gratitude into which I grew.

And the keyword for growing these seeds of gratitude is this idea of sufficiency. And that is a basic choice that has very much to do with grateful living. You can choose to trust life, and then you trust also insufficiency, that is simply of one piece. Or you can fear. And when you begin to fear, you fear that there isn’t enough for everybody. And you fear that others are getting ahead of you. And all the bad things in life happen because of fear. You get aggressive when you’re fearful. And when you trust in life, and that trust in life is also the basis for Grateful Living. You trust life and you see even if what I encounter at this moment isn’t really something that I want. If you fear, you are resisting it, and you get stuck in it. And if you trust, you go through it. And it becomes, every narrow spot
becomes a new birth.