An Aptitude for Gratitude

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Image via Wikipedia

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

~Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist.

The new year is here, the holidays have passed, the gifts have been received and, for all we know, the world may be coming to an end. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about gratitude. According to Cicero, gratitude is the root of all other human values. Why, then, does it come more naturally to some than to others? We teach young children to say “please” and “thank you”; but is that really enough to impress upon them the real meaning of appreciation? From the piles of presents mine opened during Christmas, you would have thought there would be nothing but smiles. As adults, we all know to express appreciation whether we love the gift or not; but children haven’t mastered the difference between a white lie and a bad lie so their disappointment is not easily masked, creating an impression of selfishness.

What is required to learn gratitude? Do we point out the gross differences between how we live compared to those below the poverty line? Do we force them to donate unwanted gifts to a local charity? Do we put them on an austerity plan, taking away privileges and slowly earn those back as they gain more appreciation? I think unless you have been exposed to something less than what you are used to, it is very hard to grasp the concept.

What about putting them in the giver’s shoes? Would they like to know whether the person they had bought a present for liked it or not? What if they never heard anything about it at all, even though they had put time and effort into the gift? At the risk of nagging, I did try this strategy to help my kids empathize with their relatives who had sent gifts. Unfortunately, this is where I got stuck in the middle. Trying to bridge the gap between generations- one who finds gratitude to be a natural and expected trait and the other, who insists noone does this anymore. It is like trying to put the square peg in the round hole. Eventually my kids did recognize why writing a thank-you note was the right thing to do, yet is expressing gratitude a dying trait? In the age of technology, where exchanges can be shortened to a few syllables does THX really convey appreciation?    Thank You Notes :  wedding etiquette new york thank you Z924437 z924437 <www.lllusa.org>

I suppose the best thing to do is teach by example and remember to express thanks often, even if it is for help with a chore. Maybe the cumulative effect will eventually kick in and by the time they are grown up, they will be more apt to show gratitude without prompting.  In the meantime, I will appreciate every sunny day, every day of good health, every good meal and every moment of laughter. None of those should ever be taken for granted.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 22:15:14

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