Persons, places and things: The logic of gratitude


By Barb Arland-Fye


Father Brian Miclot of our diocese gave a short homily on the “logic of gratitude” and I continue to reflect on the message since hearing it during a weekday Mass last week.

The first three verses of the day’s Gospel (Mark 1:29–39) provided the foundation for the homily: “On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”

Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, the fever went away and she waited on them. That is the logic of gratitude, observed Father Miclot, a retired St. Ambrose University philosophy professor. That pearl of insight from his homily is what sticks with me.


The day before, our region received nearly a foot of snow, followed several days later by another foot of snow and accompanied by brutal winds and frigid temperatures. My Facebook feed filled quickly with photos and stories of a winter wonderland, which for some people turned out to be a nightmare. A couple of posts caused me to reflect on Father Miclot’s message of the logic of gratitude.

Jennifer Hildebrand, a friend and fellow parishioner, posted “Thank you to my friend, Kathy Messmer Cox, who picked me up at the bottom of our snow-covered road early this morning (Jan. 9) to drive me to church for a funeral. Thank you to our new neighbor across the street, who plowed all the driveways at the top of Bluff Blvd. in Princeton, Iowa including ours! (We still don’t know your name. I left a thank you note on the pile of building supplies in your garage). Little did you know that my husband, Kim, is laid up for 6 weeks in a knee immobilizer and not able to plow our long driveway. Little did you know that I was helping at a church funeral all day down the road and fretting about who I was going to hire to do the job of plowing our driveway.”

Jennifer told me later that her Good Samaritan showed up again after the second storm (Jan. 12) to plow her neighborhood’s street and driveways. She rushed out to greet him with a thank-you note and to get his name. He has been renovating a house he purchased in the neighborhood and chose to serve his neighbors. That is an example of the logic of gratitude.

Another friend, Mike Brown, now parenting five young foster children with his wife, Joyce, posted this message: “All posts I see seem to be battles against snow, cold, rain or combinations thereof. We just have foster-kid drama after spending a day at the park. I will take my life, thank you.” That is the logic of gratitude.

When I asked my son Patrick to share some examples of the logic of gratitude, he said, “Dad.”  My husband Steve is grateful for the way his life has progressed and for the Catholic faith, which he embraced as an adult. These gifts inspire his volunteerism. That is the logic of gratitude.

This past Sunday, our son Colin, who is autistic, arrived at our house with a milkshake that he placed in the freezer to enjoy later that day. When I entered the kitchen a short time later, Steve was sopping up vanilla milkshake that had spilled in the freezer and leaked onto the floor. I joined him in cleaning up the sticky mess. On a much warmer day, nearly 39 years ago, Steve and I sealed our consent to give ourselves to each other in the sacrament of marriage. Wiping up the kitchen floor together felt every bit like living out the logic of gratitude.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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