Attitude of Gratitude
I have challenged the young women I work with at church to think on the things they are most grateful for. This is about identifying people and circumstances that make us truly thankful…not about being blessed with an iPhone or other trinket. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – hands down. I love cooking for people. I love the Christmas music playing. I still get excited for the Macy’s parade. I already have plans for going to see Christmas lights Thanksgiving weekend while my family is here. Thanksgiving gives me the best of the holidays rolled into one. What could be better?
I find myself thinking about two portraits that still hang in my Mom’s house. I think she bought them through Home Interior, but they are called “Grace and Gratitude”. There is something about the old woman praying over her bible with her glasses situated on the pages that calls to my heart and reminds me of my Granny Wheeler. Countless times I went to her apartment and found her at her kitchen table or in her recliner with God’s word open and her in humble prayer. She is still the least selfish and most grateful person I have ever known. Make no mistake my other grandparents are and were readers of God’s word but I never captured them in these moments as I did with Granny Wheeler.
What is Gratitude?
According to Oxford Dictionary gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. This goes beyond saying “thank you” and far beyond meditating on someone else being kind to you. Gratitude requires a measure of action.
One of our adult sons is currently living with us. He shows gratitude in two major ways – feeding you (wonder where he gets that from) and doing things for you. It is his language of gratitude, his way of showing thanks. (What I really want is him to clean up after himself and to wash dishes without being asked.) Our youngest son likes to surprise you with random acts of kindness. We told him to take care of something last weekend and we came home to half of the house being cleaned. He randomly stops by my work and brings me something to drink or just to give me a hug. In truth, all four of the boys have had some little action that reflected gratitude.
My sons have been raised with a culture of “you better be thankful”. Each of us, as a family, have volunteered with the homeless or in other capacities that helped us see first hand how lucky we are…even when things are tight for us. The result became sons who have a difficult time telling you what they want for Christmas, their birthday, or even accepting tokens of thanks for helping others. They have what they need and are grateful for it.
The Absence of Gratitude
One of our sons has Asperger’s Syndrome. If you are unfamiliar: “Asperger’s syndrome is a condition on the autistic spectrum and is one of the milder and ‘higher functioning’ forms of autism. Like other conditions on the spectrum, Asperger’s describes a developmental disorder that renders an individual unable to fully understand social cues and potentially to struggle with communication more broadly.” These people are intelligent but if you are a “Big Bang Theory” fan you will recognize that the character of Sheldon fits this form.
We encountered a young woman in our home that seems to fit this diagnosis as well. She did not pick up on subtle guidance. She did not think to help others when they had done things for her. She avoided eye contact and avoided any form of confrontation. When she departed she never told us she was planning to leave or when, never said goodbye or thank you. To be honest this infuriated me. This person lived in my house, shared meals with us and we were not even worth saying goodbye too. Okay, so it hurt my feelings too. I learned later that she thought we were mad at her or disliked her. Make no mistake I was frustrated. How hard is it to clean up after yourself? We have a rule in our house that if you did not help cook, you help clean up after the meal. Was that too much to ask? I do not want to think that she was vehemently disregarding others. I choose to believe that she just did not get. She was so focused in on her needs and concerns that she did not recognize others. Honestly, yes, I would rather think she has undiagnosed Asperger’s than believe she was an ungrateful brat. The truth is I do not know. She struggled with social interaction so it is easy for me to draw this conclusion. It also makes me less aggravated with the situation.
Gratitude is a Way of Life
Gratitude shows itself in many ways. Have you ever been at Starbucks or another restaurant where the person before you paid for your coffee or meal? I have had this experience happen several times and it always gives me such an amazing feeling inside. Showing appreciation, returning a kindness, or paying a kindness forward always feels good. Some times gratitude is buying someone lunch or coffee. Other times it is watching children, leading a group, making a meal, or just showing up when someone needs a shoulder to cry on.
Granny Wheeler never drove. I frequently took her grocery shopping with my sons in tow. We would go on Saturday morning, usually after Granny made cheese biscuits and home fries. The boys helped fill the cart with the things on Granny’s list and helped haul everything in when shopping was done. Granny either offered money, which got refused, or would buy the boys a treat. (Usually cookies – hence the reason we called her Cookie Granny.) When it was time for us to go, she was always in tears. Tears of gratitude. She would say how blessed she was to have family that cared for her and helped her do the things she needed to do. It’s perhaps the most impactful display of gratitude I have ever seen.
When I would host Thanksgiving or other meals, both of my Grannies, my Mom and Aunt were in the kitchen helping clean up. Yes, that is how we were raised, but it is also an expression of gratitude. Gratitude is action. It is an expression of love and appreciation.
On a final note. Expressions of thankfulness should be a regular condition for a Christian. We are commanded to praise and be thankful. Praise and worship is an expression of our gratitude for all the Father has done for us. Psalm 100:4-5 tell us to enter with thanksgiving and praise and to be thankful. Giving thanks should be at our very core and constantly on our lips. It should be an outward expression of the inward work that our faith in God has manifested in our lives. Part of our expression of gratitude is showing a measure of mercy and grace to others…even those who fail to be grateful to us. After all, what grace and mercy has the Father in Heaven extended to you?
Make it a point today to show your gratitude. Saying “thanks” or “thank you” has become little more than a hashtag in our current social climate. It is a social obligation to utter “thank you”. Take this season to make a change in your own attitude of gratitude. Make an effort to let others know what they mean to you. Count your blessings and think about how you can show you are thankful for each of them.