Tuesday, 13 September 2011

gratitude

I've been thinking a lot lately about gratitude. How those 2 little words - THANK and YOU - are so sweet to my ears when they're spoken in genuine ways.

Do I do things just to be thanked? I'd like to say no, but I know that I like to be acknowledged and appreciated. Those 2 words just seem like they're easy to say.

I appreciate politeness - I'll even go so far as to say that I expect it. And that I'm shocked when it doesn't come. Here are 2 instances where I expect politeness, and a little "thank you."

1. DRIVING. When I slow down to let someone in front of me, I expect a little hand wave in return. When I don't get one, I make sure that I do a big hand wave while loudly saying "YOU'RE WELCOME!" to the driver that hopefully s/he sees in the rearview mirror and remembers "oh ya! I should have said thank you!"

2. HOLDING A DOOR OPEN. I hold doors open for others, and love to hear a little "thank you" in return. When it doesn't happen, I sometimes say "YOU'RE WELCOME" in a loud enough voice so that the ungrateful person thinks "oh ya! Maybe I should have said thank you!" Or, when someone doesn't hold the door open for me, I say "THANK YOU" in a loud enough voice so that the non-holding-door-open-person thinks "oh ya! Maybe I should have held that door open instead of letting it slam in her face."

Am I proud of these 2 examples? Not at all. Definitely part of my darker side - this shaming method of eliciting "thank you's" and not-so-genuine courtesies from total strangers.

I also like to be thanked by family members for the stuff I do for them. Am I just really needy? Perhaps.

I want to teach my kids gratitude. To say "thank you" to others. To write thank you cards. To be grateful for what they have. To thank people who do them favours - like driving them here or there, and taking time out of their days. Saying thank you is just like building a small little bridge to that other person - a bridge of goodwill that makes them want to cross over again.

But do I ask my kids, "What do you say?" to get them to say thank you? (Said in a sing-songy way, with the word "say" stretching out for 2 syllables in a up-down sort of way.) (I hate asking this, but sometimes I feel I should when the thank you's aren't forthcoming.) I know they hate to be reminded to say thank you, and I know I sound stupid reminding them. Lately I've been waiting and waiting and waiting, and usually they do come through with those 2 little words, sometimes in very very quiet voices, but still there. Phew. I'm not raising total hellians (yet).

I've read that for some people, expressing gratitude was life-changing. Keeping a gratitude journal and tracking the many blessings even amidst the muck of life turned their world around. I think that by expressing gratitude to God, we can learn to be grateful to others too. When we practice noticing the little gifts around us, we can also see the ways that others "gift" us during our days. Gratitude prayers we try to do around here include:

* pray at the end of the day using the "glad, sad, sorry" prompts. Glad = gratitude.


* pray at mealtimes, thanking God for specific things in our day.
* pray before meals, thanking God for our food. Eating good food every day is something I don't want my kids to take for granted.


* pray in the morning, thanking God for a new day of surprises.

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say "thank you?"  ~William A. Ward

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. 
 ~Meister Eckhart

There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed.  
If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.  
~Robert Brault

You say grace before meals.  All right.  
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, 
and grace before the play and pantomime, 
and grace before I open a book, 
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.  
~G.K. Chesterton

7 comments:

  1. THANK YOU Rebecca for reminding us to be gracious & to be present in the everyday. Whether we're aware of it or not, our actions (no matter how little...saying thanks) effect those around us. Be present. Be aware of all your blessings. And SHOW your gratitude!

    Thank you for this heart warming blog. It is appreciated.

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  2. And thank you to you both for warming my little heart! :)

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  3. Thank-you and thank you for these thoughts!

    My world of 'ways to say "thank-you"' was opened when I met my future husband. He is a very polite driver, always displaying courtesy, especially to school bus and transport truck drivers for merges and lane changes. He does this by a simple "flicker" of his headlights to indicate he will let them in/over. Apparently that is a cue to the professional driver. 9/10 when the large vehicle driver (Cdn and US) has made the safe lane change, their tail lights "blink" a couple of times to say "thank-you" to the motorist who was courteous to let them in. I like this "warm fuzzy" "thank you" on our roadways -- it sure is better than road rage!

    Happy trails until we meet again, is how I see it! Mush :-)

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  4. Mush, you are so good at thanking and encouraging/appreciating others. I learned this trucker politeness (!) when I went trucking with my dad growing up. I liked the "secret code" that they seemed to have among truck drivers. I too love those blinking thank yous!

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  5. Rebecca - You wrote this at such a good time.
    I have just come from spending a couple of days in hospital with a brother in law having brain surgery.
    There were many many times during those two days that I thought about gratitude.
    Interesting place - critical care hospital waiting rooms - This one was filled with people sleeping, crying, sitting nervously holding hands, surrounded by family that seemed like they hadn't seen each other for a while. It was kind of like a secret time and place where everyone's guard was down. No one had slept.
    We all seemed to want to take care of each other. People looked each other in the eye. People borrowed embroidery thread. People said a genuine thank you for a door held or something equally "small". People had slowed down to a standstill and focused on the only thing that mattered at that moment. Loved ones.
    Any kind act of a nurse was genuinely appreciated - and even greeted with a little tear.
    I think these times remind me to be so grateful for the health of family and friends, and to not take it for granted.
    And... I'm very grateful for you, Rebecca, and your constant connection to what matters.
    Still love the blog.

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  6. Rachel - this is beautiful. I'm so grateful for your friendship and support. YOU should write about this hospital experience - even if it's just for you or your kids or your students. It needs to be shared!

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