I read a story recently about a woman who got on a crowded subway in New York City. When a man got up and offered her a seat, the surprise was so great that she fainted. When the woman recovered she said, “thank you”, and the man fainted.
I suspect that this story isn’t true. Well at least, I am reasonably sure it isn’t. But one wonders how much of it is really exaggerated!! It seems that in our society common courtesy and simple gratitude seem to be so rare that we are pleasantly surprised.
We need to remember that gratitude is not simply a spontaneous emotional response to all the blessings in life. It is not something that just happens, a feeling that overwhelms us. Of course sometimes that is a part of it, but always it should be more that that. Gratitude is primarily a choice that we need to make. In response to all of the many and varied experiences of life, we choose to be grateful, or we choose to be ungrateful. I am convinced that most of us would agree that gratitude is the better choice. We all would like to be grateful people. We certainly do not want to be ingrates, taking for granted all the blessings God gives us or all of the generosities of others. So then why is it that so many people today so seldom seem to be genuinely grateful? Let us for a moment look at some factors that might help us make the choice of gratitude.
First is the need for an active memory. Today our lives may be filled with all kinds of good fortune. And if so, we are doubtless glad about that. But we cannot be truly grateful for it, unless and until we remember how we got here – the road that we traveled, the help that we had to climb, the obstacles that we overcame, and most of all, the wonderful people who helped us along the way.
Another factor is the need to express our appreciation. Why do parents work so diligently to teach their children to say “thank you” when someone does something nice for them? One reason, no doubt, is to save parents from embarrassment. They do not want others to think that they and their family lack common courtesies. That said, I suspect there is a deeper reason, which is this: they want their children to become genuinely grateful people. So they do that by the habitual expression of appreciation.
I heard a story about a silent New England farmer who broke into speech on his golden wedding anniversary. With labored effort, he said to his wife; “Mary, all of these tears I have loved you so much that at times I could hardly keep from telling you.” That couple may have had a good marriage, but they did not have a great marriage. Love should not nor cannot be kept in cold storage like a piece of meat. It needs to be expressed often!
So it is with gratitude. In order to live and grow it must be expressed. If you and I would be genuinely grateful people, we must cultivate the habit of expressing with our lips that which we feel in our hearts. Gratitude is not simply something that happens to us. It is a choice that each person must make for himself or herself.
What better time to start making the choice of gratitude than today. What better place to start than with our family and friends and of course with God.