The subject of this post sounds good, eh? When you try to put it into practice this week, it’s going to get a lot harder. Black Friday looms and all the shopping of the season is meant to fill gaps and holes in our lives with material goods. Can we really do that?
Many people are posting on Facebook and elsewhere, their daily thing to be thankful for. “I’m grateful for my new oven, because cooking is so much easier now.” Okay, that’s something to be happy about, but is it worthy of being sincerely grateful? Will the food taste so much better that your family will be more energized, satisfied, healthier because of that purchase? Or “I’m grateful for my Kindle. It’s the gift that keeps on giving: books!” Now, since I’m self-serving that way, I can get behind this, but only so far. Is any toy something to truly be grateful for?
What is gratitude? According to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, being grateful is involved with wanting to repay a kindness. I would also add that it’s a selfless repayment, where one expects nothing in return, except for maybe a thank you. So that new refrigerator isn’t expecting a kindness or your gratitude, but maybe the person who bought it for you would appreciate one. Or the person who moved it (a tip, perhaps?). Reciprocal gifts are just one way to say you’re grateful.
If you’re grateful for being able to eat three meals a day, give someone else three meals a day (perhaps at a homeless shelter). Be grateful for what you have but pass it on. Someone else, feeling gratitude, will then pass a kindness on to yet another person. It snowballs.
Here’s a list of three things I’m grateful for and how I express my gratitude:
(1) I’m grateful for my husband, who understands the mind of an artist and patiently deals with my nuttiness with hardly a complaint. He supports me generously even when my meager earnings aren’t quite enough for me to do my share. How I show my gratitude? I say thank you to him at every turn, I tell him I love him, and I do small things for him that make his life easier without expecting him to notice or comment. I keep his needs foremost in my mind, without losing myself and the things he loves about me.
(2) I’m grateful for the time I had with my childhood family. All but my half-brother and niece are gone now, but I remember those good family times vividly and fondly. I look over my old photos and shed tears thinking about how warm and happy those days were. How do I show my gratitude? I help my niece with her projects, though I don’t expect anything in return. I give my children unconditional love, without expecting a phone call or a status report on my schedule. I tell them thank you for every good thing they do for me. And I try to introduce them to new places and people that they would never get to experience otherwise — those might be the most lasting memories they have.
(3) I’m grateful for the publishers who have taken a chance on me. They didn’t have to. I write well, but there’s always someone who does your craft better than you do. There are plenty of those colleagues whom I respect very highly and from whom I try to learn. What do I do to show my gratitude? I write more, helping them have a constant stream of product to sell. I show my loyalty to them by promoting their new releases and fledgling authors. I do my share of marketing (this blog, for example), which means the publisher prospers without having to make their whole job PR.
Here’s my gratitude to my bosses today: Blushing Books Publications, Stormy Night Publications, and New Dawning Bookfair. Check them out. I don’t get anything for pointing them out to you, except satisfaction knowing that I’m showing a little gratitude.
Those are the three things I’m most grateful for. Not just this year, but every year.
I hope you find the things you’re truly grateful for this Thanksgiving, and that on Black Friday you don’t forget that a kind word, a tip to a waiter, letting another person go ahead of you in line — these are signs of your gratitude, for you have opportunities most of the world’s population can’t even imagine.
Happy Thanksgiving, my US friends!