Fall 2011 - Gratitude
I rolled my eyes and whined at the time, but now, as an adult, I am ever grateful for having been exposed to the culture of saying 'thank you' as a child. And just for the record, I'm not talking about just writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. I'm talking about writing to teachers at the end of the school year, to friends' parents when I'd been to a sleepover, and to anyone who had worked with me to help me get what I wanted (an interview, a job, a promotion, etc.). Don't get me wrong. At the time, it certainly wasn't the first thing on my mind to do after opening a present, after someone did me a favor, or on the first day of summer vacation! I procrastinated as long as I could without looking and feeling like a slacker, but my elders' insistence that thank you notes were non-negotiable definitely paved the way for the creation of a habit that has enhanced my own life and probably brought a smile here and there to the recipients of my notes.
I do believe that the practice of thanking someone in writing helps take the edge off what has become a hectic, impersonal world, but I also know that I'd have to be living in a cave to think that written thank you notes will be all the rage by next year. Still, there are always things for which to be grateful and expressing that gratitude can take as little as a second or two. How about giving a grateful wave to the driver who lets you merge in front of him? Or smiling your thanks to the grocery store checker? Or responding with sometimes-hard-to-muster graciousness to the telephone Customer Service rep who's probably halfway around the world? Frankly, the very fact that life presents us with so many opportunities to say 'thank you' in one form or another is a gift, in and of itself.
We only have to know a fraction of what is going on in the world to realize that it must be nearly impossible for some people in some parts of the world to have anything for which to be thankful. Fortunately for our children, we live in a world chock full of reasons for gratitude. Unfortunately, though, living our relatively easy lives (compared to much of the world) can create a sense of entitlement that leaves few reasons to give thanks. Food on the table? Of course. Someone to drive you to soccer practice? Duh! A doctor to see you when you're sick? Please. And that's why it's important for our kids to see and hear us express gratitude, no matter how small -- to the driver who let us merge, to the checker at the store, and to whomever it is we're talking to on the phone. The list is pretty much endless -- and that, in itself, is reason to be grateful!