On November 27, 2016 Rev. Vincent Fuqua addressed the assembled people at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Good morning everyone! (Good morning!) Alrighty! That shows a little excitement there. I like a little more enthusiasm so we’re going to do it one more time. Good morning everyone! (Good morning! - more loudly) There we go! That is more like it. That’s the way I like it. I like the energy.
I hope everyone had an incredible Thanksgiving. I always appreciate Thanksgiving. I really appreciate that every year I have the opportunity to spend it with my Community Miracles Center family. Rev. Tony, correct me if I’m wrong. It’s been thirty-one years? (Rev. Tony: “Thirty-one years of Thanksgiving dinners!”) All right. It’s an amazing thing. It started out at Rev. Larry’s beautiful home (CMC’s co-founder, 1932-2010). Now we have the pleasure of doing it at Rev. Dusa Althea’s place. There’s an amazing, beautiful community room in her apartment building. The thing that I appreciate about it, that I love, is the opportunity for us to be together as one, as a community, and to be grateful and surrounded by one another. It’s a remarkable experience. It even gives us an opportunity for myself and Rev. Alicia, to debate what we are going to watch on TV. I’m a football fan, and she likes her dog show. So, I gave in this year and we watched the dog show. Then we watched football afterwards. (laughter) It is a wonderful thing! That is what the Community Miracles Center is about and that’s why I see us all as my extended family. It is also an opportunity for us to go and take an amazing hike. We walk up Bernal Heights (a hill near the bay on San Francisco’s east side) which has an amazing view from the top. The whole day is an incredible experience, and I am very grateful and appreciative of that.
Today, I am going to be talking a little bit about gratitude and a little bit about just being grateful. The interesting thing is, when I originally knew I was going to be speaking, I had something else in my mind that I wanted to talk about. Rev. Kelly makes us sign up very early, so we can have an idea of when we are going to be speaking. Yet that “dang” Holy Spirit has got Its own mind and what It thinks I need to talk about. I listened and heard what I was being guided to do. I was guided, “That’s what you’re going to be speaking on.” I thought, “Well Holy Spirit, if that is what you want me to speak on, then that’s what I’m going to have to speak on.” We just have to listen. (laughter)
I was remembering what Thanksgiving is all about. As some of us know, Thanksgiving started manifesting itself in the 1600’s. It was in 1621 when the thoughts started coming up for the Pilgrims about having harvest festivities with the local Indians who had helped them. That’s when it first happened. Then in 1789, President George Washington had one Thanksgiving day. That was just that one year, one official Thanksgiving holiday celebration. In 1817, New York State was the first state to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, but it wasn’t until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln decided to make it a federal holiday.
Let’s think about it. In 1863 when they decided to make Thanksgiving a Federal holiday, we know what was happening during that time. The Civil War was happening. It was in the midst of the Civil War, at that moment, Abraham Lincoln felt it was time for us to start being grateful and thankful for the things that we actually do have. That was a time in our lives, a time in our country, where there was so much disarray, so much hatred, so much of all that negative energy. Yet, they felt this was the moment we needed to take a step back and be grateful and appreciate each other instead of fighting against each other. I think it is remarkable. That is when they really decided to make it an official holiday.
This made me take a moment and reflect on how things are now in 2016. I realized how much things have changed, how they have progressed. Yet as we are aware, there is still hatred that exists in our country and in our society. For me, I’m trying to figure out how I can recognize the hatred and yet be in a place of gratitude, to take a moment and see what are the lessons that I am supposed to learn in these situations. Each and every one of us has challenging things in our lives. I’ve continually had challenges in my life.
I had to deal with my own feelings about police officers killing African-Americans and blacks. What was that like for me? (Rev. Vincent is African American) I had to deal with my own feelings and thoughts post-election. All these things come up in our minds, but what is it that we can do to look at them differently? How can we go about shifting and changing our minds on how to see these things? Can we not see these as bad things but see them as opportunities for us to find the goodness in the things that are happening? That is something I am trying to get better at. I am trying to learn how to be able to deal with things better. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely have my doubts. I have my feelings about everything that has taken place, but I know that it’s important for me to take a step back and really, examine what I can do. What is my part? How can I make sure that I extend nothing but love and gratefulness no matter what the situation is that is happening.
“Gratitude is a lesson hard to learn for those who look upon the world amiss. The most that they can do is see themselves as better off than others.” (OrEd.WkBk.195.1) When we see ourselves as better off than others, we are not in gratitude. We are in gratitude when we see each other as one. We are no different than any others, and that’s the point for us to keep in mind, to keep to the forefront, as much as we can. As I mentioned earlier regarding police officers killing African-Americans, the thing is that I had to learn and realize that I can not put the blame on every single police officer that exists. Not all of them do that. Yes, there are some of them who did. But guess what? There are plenty who did not and it’s important to understand and appreciate the work that our police officers do each and every day. They are putting themselves out there to protect us.
Yes, it was hard for me to accept this because I’ve been harassed by police officers throughout my life, but I’m learning how to appreciate and be in gratitude for what they do. I have close friends who are police officers and I know what they go through. I know they do whatever they can to protect us. I see that good in them. One of the things I’ve been doing, since all this has taken place, is whenever I see police officers, I go up and thank them. I let them know how much I appreciate the work that they do. In my mind, I am not only healing myself but I am healing the perception that is between police officers and the African-American community.
A Course in Miracles reminds us of this. “Walk then in gratitude, the way of love.” (OrEd.Wkbk.195.8) As we to walk in gratitude, we are coming form love. There are no “ifs or buts” about it. That’s what gratitude is about. We may perceive that we have a lot of challenges that are going on in our lives. Just understand that we can allow ourselves to be in a right state of mind where we allow ourselves to be in gratitude. That’s where love is coming from. Love does not come from hatred. Love does not come from anger. No. It does not. This is our challenge to be able to love ourselves and each other no matter what is happening. Yes, we recognize what we see. I recognize a lot of things that are happening in our country which do not feel good. I know I play a part in those things. Each and every one of us knows that we each have a role in all this.
We can shift and see the beauty that actually always exists. The beauty really does exist when we walk in gratitude. Deep inside of us is where the love is coming from. From deep inside of us is how we shift and change our mind from all those negative thoughts, all those thoughts of hatred. Many of us have had fear because of the outcome of the election. We need to put that aside and remember, to understand, that everything happens for a reason in this world. We have the opportunity to learn that lesson and change our experience.
For me, that’s where things are at. When we are able to get to the point in our lives where we can stop caring so much about being “right” just imagine what this world would be like. Truth of the matter is it does not matter who people voted for. It really doesn’t, because what happens is we constantly continue to compare and judge each other. That brings up separation; it brings up hatred. It brings up judgment. It brings up all those things that we are not about. How about us taking a moment and appreciating the fact that we all had the opportunity to voice our concerns, place our vote for who we wanted?
That’s the beauty of the country we live in. I think we lose sight of that. At my job, one of my coworkers received an email from a family who are refugees. It was hard for my co-worker to understand what they were trying to say. Eventually we had the family write it out again and draw out what they were trying to say. What they said was that they were so happy to be in this country. Imagine that. Yet so many times we take it for granted. We do not realize how fortunate we are. That is what we need to be appreciative of, to understand, and to be in gratitude about.
“When your forgiveness is complete, you will have total gratitude, for you will see that everything has earned the right to love by being loving, even as your Self.” (OrEd.Wkbk.195.8) Forgiveness is complete. That is a huge idea in the Course – us learning how to forgive, truly forgive. Forgiveness is about not holding on to any grievances at all. We need to acknowledge when we are holding on and,when we are being forgiving, in the complete sense that we are supposed to be. When we do that we are in gratitude.
This reminded me of the movie that I just saw with my partner Matt named Loving. We went to see it on Friday night. It was about Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple. It made me think how they were truly loving at that time, while they went through so much hardship. They were two people who loved one another, but our country did not want to accept that. That was not what was supposed to happen in our country at that time. Yet what they did for many years was to remember that it was about their love. It was about who they were. No matter how other people treated them, my sense was that they still forgave the people who didn’t approve of their relationship. They forgave the people for the hatred that they were getting from them. To be able to do that is a remarkable gift. The other thing that is remarkable is that they set the stage for the rest of us. I know I am grateful and very appreciative for what they did, because I have been in an interracial relationship pretty much throughout my life. My brother also is. Many of my friends are. Without the Lovings, this wouldn’t have happened. It is very interesting that their last name was “Loving.” How remarkable is that? These two individuals stood up for what they thought was right, and they had the last name “Loving.” There can be nothing more wonderful or miraculous than that. The message they gave each and every one of us was how to be loving.
“Today we learn to think of gratitude in place of anger, malice, and revenge.” (OrEd.Wkbk.195.9) As I mentioned earlier, anger should not be a place that we stay stuck in. I know for me all that does is drain me of my energy. It does not allow me to see and appreciate the beauty that really does exist in this world that we are in. Yes, there are many times that I have wished that I could go out and attack a person because of what they did or what they said. Yes, that crosses my mind. I’m human. It’s going to happen, but the thing is to recognize that, to have an awareness of it, to take a step back and to change it. That’s the challenge that I know I will continue to work through. I’ve gotten better at it. I’m not perfect. Don’t expect me to be perfect any time soon. I do know that today we can learn to think of gratitude instead of anger, gratitude in place of malice and revenge. What helps me sometimes when I’m finding myself stuck in that frame of mind where there is hatred and revenge, is to remind myself of the work that I do.
I work with people who are HIV positive and I work with the issue of health disparities among African-Americans. Sometimes, my department has us do extra work. They like to assign us different things to experience. In June, we were asked to go out with the homeless outreach team. This outreach team talks to individuals who appear to be homeless, and we did our part in picking up any syringes or needles that were on the sidewalk. We were asked to do that and I partook in that. I had my thoughts, feelings and judgments about people appearing to be homeless or shooting up drugs and out on the streets. I had my own negativity regarding aspects of it. Now I had the opportunity to be out there on the streets and to really see what was happening. It made me realize that I need to get out of my own judgment.
I didn’t understand where these individuals were coming from. I did not understand what their life has been like. The truth of the matter is that as I was watching them, I saw how much each and every one of them was taking care of each other. That was remarkable. The beauty that they show to one another is incredible. Yet, we don’t usually see that. We have our own judgments about what they are like, but in reality, we don’t know. They have so much spirit and love in them that it blew me away. It forced me to take the time to be in great gratitude for what I have and to be in great gratitude for what they have. It is not my place to say they don’t have what they need. No. All I can do is be true to myself and true to them when I interact with them.
So I encourage each and every one of you to just take the time, to walk around the city, and not believe the things that appear to be in despair or not good. Open your mind and your eyes and really appreciate what is happening. These individuals interact with each other, and they have more diversity between each other than I ever thought possible. It doesn’t matter who you are and what your life experience is. This is what gratitude is about. It is people truly taking the time and being thankful – understanding the gift that each person that they meet is. That is what I learned and is what I truly appreciated about my experience with the homeless. It is something I will truly hold.
“Today in gratitude we lift our hearts above despair and raise our thankful eyes, no longer looking downward to the dust. We sing the song of thankfulness today in honor of the Self Which God has willed to be our true identity in him. Today we smile on everyone we see and walk with lightened footsteps as we go to do what is appointed us to do. We do not go alone. And we give thanks that in our solitude a Friend has come to speak saving Word of God to us.” (OrEd.Wkbk.123.4) Each and every one of us are an amazing individual. We can continue to remind ourselves to be appreciative and grateful for the things that we have. If we do that we will continue to put out the energy of love in every encounter we have. We will learn through every lesson that comes our way.
That is my talk for today. Thank you. (applause) ♥
Rev.Vincent Fuqua is CMC's 51st minister. He is currently a member of the CMC Board of Directors (08.27.18). He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 4, 2004.
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the December 2016 (Vol. 30 No. 10) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.