Thanks and Wow: Two Prayers from Anne Lamott’s Latest

This post continues our online book discussion of Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow, the Friends Journal selection for February.

Help Thanks book

Chapter Two: Thanks.

One of the things that’s easy to say but hard to do for human beings is feel grateful for what we have. We too often see (and want) what we don’t have—through television, in movies, on billboards, and even now in advertisements that pop up on smartphones. We may think, “I’d be more grateful if I had a bigger house, or a car that didn’t rattle, or a kid at Harvard, or a personal assistant to do laundry.” (Okay, that last one might be just me.)

This is why Anne Lamott says that “Thanks” is just as essential as “Help.”

“We and life are spectacularly flawed and complex. Often we do not get our way, which I hate, hate, hate. But in my saner moments I remember that if we did, usually we would shortchange ourselves. Sometimes circumstances conspire to remind us or even let us glimpse how thin the membrane is between here and there, between birth and the grave, between human and the divine. In wonder at the occasional direct experience of this, we say, Thank you.”

How do you practice gratitude in your daily life?

Do you think people are less grateful today than they may have been decades ago? Do current generations take more or less for granted?

If you’re feeling especially unthankful, what do you do to remind yourself to take stock and be grateful?

Chapter Three: Wow.

Another prayer that some of us rarely say is “Wow.” It seems the older people get, the less often they become amazed by the beauty and depth in the world. It doesn’t take much to impress children, on the other hand. Small kids say “wow” or stare in awe at trucks, construction vehicles, skyscrapers, flowers in bloom, a parent’s magic trick. But grownups have a tendency to get bogged down by the many things we have to do, the errands we have to run, the bills we have to pay. In fact, it might be fair to say that the only time some of us say “Wow” is when we open our credit card statements, or remark about a tragic event.

One of the ways Lamott explains we can be open is through art: “In art, we feel the breath of the invisible, of the eternal… We see in art a moment in time, an instant, and this is holy.”

(Schools should really think twice when they consider cutting their arts programs, no?)

In order to be amazed by art or nature, however, which are reflections of the divine, Lamott believes that we need to be open to learn, grow, and change.

“If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you’re dying. You’re saying: Leave me alone; I don’t mind this little rathole. It’s warm and dry. Really, it’s fine.”

Do you think adults are less prone to amazement than children? 

What helps you feel inspired? 

Do you see art as a reflection of the divine? 


If you missed our first book club installment of Help, Thanks, Wowread our discussion about asking for help through prayer. And if you haven’t already, catch our interview with Anne Lamott.

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