A life spent in contemplation of gratitude is a life of incessant heart opening. Most of us in the developed world know we have lots to be grateful for in a material sense. We know we should be grateful for our loved ones and for precious moments that connect us to people, ideas, and pursuits that matter to us. Yet most of us forget sometimes; some of us forget more than others.
This glamorization of the golden few in media, and what huge gifts they are able to give, may obscure the kindnesses of strangers or friends who do the simple things in life for others out of generosity of spirit—not because they want anything, but because they wish to give generously and to be part of our lives. Everyone of us needs to be acknowledged and appreciated for what we offer and encouraged to offer what we can.
Each one of us wants to be seen for what we are able to give. Is it egotistical or small-minded to want our contributions to be noted? No! It’s human.
Humility is sometimes misunderstood as the self-effacing denial of our strengths or gifts. True humility is accepting our gifts and failings with equanimity, and gracefully receiving feedback on both. Taking in praise for our generous acts, no matter how small, is food for our highest good.
We do not have equal resources or capacities to give material things, but we all do have the need to be recognized for what we do give, within the scope and context of who we are and the skills and resources we possess.
We cannot all give in the same way.
*You may be able to host a community event at your beach mansion.
*I may be able to load your trash onto your dump truck, or help you move.
*I may be able to give you professional advice on color-coordinating your new place, although my house is a rental with an old, shaggy, smelly cat. (I won’t be asking you there.)
*You may be able to host me at a gourmet dinner with perfectly paired wines.
*You may go out of your way to host my partner and me at a concert to which you could get special seats.
*I may spring for the round of drinks and offer to be
the designated driver…and that is a real reach for me because I love to drink!
* You may be able to invite us on a lovely walk through a park.
* I may be able to help your daughter get through a really rough time with her breakup because I’m a good listener.
* I may just be able to make sure you can lift your grocery bags because they look too heavy for you
The important thing is to focus on the opportunities to give what we can and take real notice when others are giving to us.
When it comes to spotting who is giving what we often overlook the stitching on the dress in favor of the diamond buttons. There would be no diamonds to stare at if the small stitches weren’t woven throughout, keeping the garment together! Isn’t it funny how often great stitching is cited for being practically invisible?
How hard is it really to notice that everyone, at his or her level, wants to be known? And seen? And appreciated? Don’t you want these things for yourself?
We do not have to be psychic or telepathic to know what sacrifices people are making to give what they give us. We need only to be curious and deeply interested in the ways people give to us constantly, in ways we might not have noticed before.
Let’s break it down into three easy steps:
Step One: Recognize that you are blind to many ways people give to you every day.
Step Two: Become a “giving detective” and see how many ways you can now notice how others give to you.
Step Three: Whenever you notice someone giving you energy, time, expertise, attention, or help, say something about how grateful you are, each and every time.
“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.”
– Gertrude Stein
Although holding an attitude of gratitude on an internal level can increase our positive intentions and behaviors, the expressions of our gratefulness bring out the best in us and everyone else. These recognitions can be understated and subtle: No one likes an inauthentic cheerleader.
When you see someone honestly recognized for a small kindness, watch how that person’s face relaxes; watch the sparkle arrive in that person’s eyes.
Think others already know how much you appreciate them? This is rarely, if ever, true. Besides: No one has ever complained about being excessively genuinely appreciated! More commonly, people feel invisible for their contributions by the people they live with every day, friends they help, people they work with, and society in general.
Expressions of appreciation heal both the recipient and giver. Psychological research suggests that giving such appreciative expressions is highly beneficial (in terms of better immune system function and neurotransmitter balance).
Telling me what you are grateful for about me will remind me, each time, of how much you care for me; and it will encourage me to do the same for you. It will also inspire you to feel better about yourself and about the great things you can do for others too. Gratitude said out loud is, by its nature, a win-win proposition.