November 2018   
Co-Presidents' Monthly Column

November 2018          


It’s the season of Thanksgiving and I have been thinking about one of my favorite stories, “Two Bad Bricks” by Ajahn Brahm.  The story is featured in a book titled Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? written by Brahm, a man who left academia to live as a monk in the forest of Thailand. 

In his early days of living in the forest, Brahm and his fellow monks had to construct their monastery.  He describes how building with bricks appears simple but is, in fact, quite difficult.  In one of his first tasks, the abbot asked him to build a brick wall and Brahm said:

“Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed.  I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took.  Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it.  It was only then that I noticed – oh no! – I’d missed two bricks.  All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle.  They looked terrible.  They spoiled the whole wall.  They ruined it.

“When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it.  Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

‘That’s a nice wall,’ he casually remarked.  ‘Sir,’ I replied in surprise, ‘Can’t you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?’

“What he said next changed my whole view of the wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life.  He said, ‘Yes.  I can see those two bad bricks.  But I can see 998 good bricks as well.’ ”

This story resonates with me on so many levels.  It reminds me to maintain perspective, to be patient with myself and with others, and to reflect on the people and things for which I am grateful as a daily practice.  Research has demonstrated that this simple habit can shift ones outlook on life and relationships with others.  That’s powerful!

In our family we have for some time now engaged in a gratitude practice at dinner where we each name at least one thing or person for which we are grateful.  At the very least I hope that doing so reminds us that we have so much for which to be thankful.

I am grateful for All Souls, a spiritual home that is deeply committed to social justice, radical hospitality, and empathy.  I am grateful for all of you and the talents, gifts, and support that you offer to this caring community.  I am also grateful for those in our congregation who have a vision for All Souls as we Build a New Way and embark on a capital project journey.  Here we go, in gratitude!