Gratitude is an internalized emotion, which does nothing until externalized.
A birthday for a young nephew came around, but my husband and I live in a different city. As it was a ‘big’ birthday, we shipped him a special present. After several weeks, we’d not heard anything as to whether the item was appreciated, or even received.
When I spoke to my sister about the present, it was apparent I’d hit a nerve.
“Yes. He got it.”
“Did he like it?”
Long pause. Then she said, “Didn’t you track the package? It would have shown we got it.”
“Yes.” Then I sighed. “I had hoped to speak to my nephew. Maybe hear that he liked it.”
“You mean, ‘thank you’? Is that why you sent it? You wanted to hear thank you?”
Stunned, I didn’t know how to respond. Needless to say, the conversation ended on a sour note.
I recall this exchange thanks to Hurricane Irma. She rattled our home, snapped our elm tree that fell across the driveway, and disconnected us from the grid. It was a rough night. But, we woke the next morning whole, and with a roof still over our heads. Thank you, God!
Without power, we faced the option of (what we now know to be) seven days of no air conditioning, refrigerator, stove, etc. Of our two sons and their families, only one had power. We all went there. With four children under the age of four and six adults under one roof, we had to find a way to make it work. “Please” and “thank you” were expressed by the adults to encourage the children as well as one another.
Irma wreaked havoc on our state. My family was richly blessed. The worst of it was the loss of power. So many others lost so much more. We are grateful beyond the pale, and expressed it several times each day.
My daughter-in-law, whose home we commandeered, is an amazing woman. During the time we were there, with all of the commotion and activity, she received a phone call. A woman from her church asked if she could come that evening and help with distribution of hot meals. Not only did she agree, but she made cupcakes and cookies to add to the meals. Then she took one of the four kids to the church with her, so that they could see gratitude in action. (Do you think the angel wings tucked into her shirt makes her itchy?)
When we express gratitude, it not only encourages those who give, but it connects you to that person on a spiritual level. By making cupcakes, or helping clear debris, being a nurse, working at the shelters, the doctors, firemen, police, these people understand that their work is satisfaction enough. But to hear and see the gratitude of the person for whom you do these things is to form an emotional connection. Sure, whine a little. Pout and/or cry for the tangible things lost. Even if all of your possessions remain undamaged, a traumatic experience such as surviving a hurricane is a legitimate reason for shock. Just don’t drone on for too long. Those around you trying to help will begin to feel frustrated that their assistance is unappreciated.
Gratitude feeds the giving spirit.
One moment you are in the position of giver. In the next moment you might be the receiver. To offer gratitude in action or word is to complete that circle.
Even if it’s nothing more than saying thank you.