I have been thinking about gratitude lately.
It strikes me that the world has another side effect to the digital age— lack of gratitude. Stay with me a moment, I think gratitude takes attention. In order to be grateful you have to notice the thing in which you are grateful. If we are paying attention to our phones, our games, our MP3 players, our pads, our devices in general, how can you fully appreciate or be a witness to life?
The other day, I stood in the freezing cold at the door to Starbucks while a woman held the door open for all her children, three in total, as they lolly-gagged out the door. As the last one stepped out I stepped forward to go in and the woman let go of the door. We made eye contact I smiled and waited patiently while her children took their own sweet time…how was I shown gratitude for my patience in the freezing cold…by a closing door. What was she paying attention to? Herself, her kids, her next text-message, I don’t know but it struck me that the two-way street that is gratitude had a road block on it that day.
As it turns out, most days are seriously lacking in gratitude.
I feel it may be a dying art form. Obviously, this is just one layer of manners becoming extinct as well. My best friend says even my dogs have manners. This makes me smile and giggle inside, because at least I have managed to carry on the dying art into a four-legged animal.
That said, I was raised to say,
& “You’re welcome.”
I usually make it very clear when I say one of these statements. I still write Thank You cards. I know some other people who still do this as well. I have a very small collection of Thank You cards from a few people over the years that sent me genuine thanks in the mail. I love them as they remind of a time that almost does not exist anymore. My grandmother was a stickler for Thank You cards, she wanted to know where it was if she had done something for you. She would actually ask you to say thank you and send a card. That kind of tactlessness may be unnecessary, but she did teach me the value of gratitude.
I even think that gratitude is what makes my marriage strong. We do say I love you but not as often, as thank you. As a friend of mine noticed, we say thank you for all the little things to each other, like taking out the trash, or folding the laundry, or putting away the dishes. We say Thank You in this house for all those things, but we also have a vast appreciation for what we each bring to our marriage and we make sure the other person knows it.
We have all been in situations where we felt undervalued, under-appreciated, and there was a total lack of genuine gratitude. As time passes, it starts to eat away at you, you may even wonder what you actually mean to that person, it usually will come back to nothing. It will even make you question your own self-worth. It doesn’t feel good to bring your best self forward and have someone absolutely not care, or notice, or give thanks for your effort. I say that appreciation is a soul-right. It is a right that every soul on this planet should be given without a second thought.
We even undervalue ourselves, probably more than anything else. So today, give thanks to your body the temple, it serves you well, it is the very thing that carries you through this world. Give gratitude to the earth and the trees and the water and the sky, as that ecosystem is what allows you to breathe and eat and sleep and drink. Thank God, Buddha, or the Universe for giving you all this life to live. Give thanks big and small, thank that lady who waited patiently on you, thank that friend that helped you out with a little extra money in the right moment, tip your server a little extra, thank the young man who holds the door for you, thank that partner/co-worker/employee who put their best foot forward today. Thank your bank account for having the right amount of money to pay that dreaded bill instead of dreading the bill. Thank the collector of the bill for providing you with a service that makes your life easier. Thank your family for loving you. Be genuine, be real, be in gratitude, and walk away from any situation that does not honor that space of total and unabashed appreciation of all that you are.