What a compelling title!(?) Aren’t you wondering where this might be going? Remember the Seinfeld show? It was a “show about nothing.” In reality, however, it was a show about common things in our everyday lives that we tend to take for granted. For example, they were able to build entire shows around topics like breakfast cereal, flat hair, clothes warmed from a dryer, etc.
And somewhat like Seinfeld, the task at hand is to take the simple, commonly-used word “gratitude” and share something thought-provoking (hopefully) about that little word which I admit to using quite casually. Seemed easy at the time I accepted the invitation to write this.
As I often do when faced with a challenge, I reached out to some family members and friends to gain a broader perspective. That is, I asked them what the word “gratitude” means to them and how a feeling of gratitude impacts their lives. Reflecting on their thoughts individually and collectively was enlightening. Most mentioned gratitude to family and friends during times of crisis when they had faced seemingly insurmountable circumstances usually not of their making. Also, support at special events was cited along with opportunities presented in everyday life. Often gratitude to God was specifically stated. And some expressed particular gratitude for support from unexpected sources.
It all made me wonder if it’s possible to simply feel gratitude without feeling “gratitude to __ for __.” I concluded it isn’t; there is always someone to whom I am grateful. However, I would be interested in your thoughts.
There were heartfelt comments about gratitude for the influence others have on our lives. I’m reminded of a favorite quote, which is framed and hanging in the guest room of some great friends:
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints and we are never ever the same. (Author Unknown)
Reflecting on that quote, creating a listing of the latter is fairly easy in spite of the fact that it’s a longer list than I might have expected when I started. Who’s on your list?
[Note: of all the people I asked, only one mentioned gratitude for “stuff” including free Wi-Fi. She’s ten years old and quickly added, “just kidding.” I was impressed with her discernment!]
And while there are certainly degrees of intensity in feeling gratitude, e.g. “I am grateful for the delicious apple” vs. “I am grateful that you saved my child’s life,” having an attitude of thankfulness (or gratitude) is unchanging. It is a choice. As one friend said, it is “a way of life” we all can choose regardless of our circumstances.
So, where do we go from here?
How we respond to those feelings of gratitude clearly makes a difference to ourselves and to others. It is both uplifting and somewhat humbling to go beyond feeling grateful to actually expressing gratitude to others for their actions or simply for life itself. It’s uplifting because it’s the right thing to do since it encourages others. It is humbling because it’s an acknowledgement that we can’t do everything by ourselves.
But what do we do when it’s too late? As was pondered by a family member, “What happens when the person to whom I feel most grateful is gone and I didn’t adequately let them know how much I appreciated having him/her in my life?” Perhaps God is willing to intercede on our behalf, if asked. Perhaps we can learn something from the pain of regret. Perhaps we can be a little better at being forthright enough to express our gratitude going forward.
At the moment, I am feeling intense gratitude for the gift of time granted to me. And just like you, I hope to be given twenty-four hours this day…and maybe tomorrow, too. How will I respond to that gift? How will I choose to use it?
Two parting thoughts
Since Annamarie and I talked about my blogging on this subject, I have thought about it often but have done nothing about it until the last week or so. But now that I have started writing, I can see the personal benefit of thinking deeply about “gratitude” and what it means in my life. It has been a revealing experience to try to articulate those thoughts.
Maybe I will choose some other key words and do the same for my own personal growth. Words like compassion? Respect? Service? Humor? The list is endless. Maybe you will do the same. For more inspiration to do so, you might read John Maxwell’s book “Thinking for a Change.” It’s a good one!
As I sit here awaiting the morning light, I have a feeling of gratitude for this simple moment… gratitude for the freedom to essentially live as I choose. And, perhaps most importantly, I realize the feeling of gratitude is a choice I can make each moment of the day, regardless of what comes my way.
Wishing you peace this day.