The Power of Gratitude
How many times do we hear folks remark, “Why declare a oncea-year holiday to celebrate the spirit of giving, unbridled love for our significant other, honoring dead presidents, the hope and grace and forgiveness, saving Mother Earth, affection for the parental units, our patriotism and respect for war veterans, even our right to dress in goofy costumes and solicit sugary treats?
“We should do these things every day, all year long,” is an oft-repeated commentary.
I’m sure there’s an app for that on your smart phone, or a “Like” on Facebook, but I honestly believe our lives are so full just getting through the day that, in truth, we relish the idea, predictability and even structure of annual calendar events.
With one notable exception — Thanksgiving.
As the years pass, I’ve noted a distinctive trend in our society toward taking things for granted, instead of expressing appreciation for even the smallest “gifts.” Again, we might chalk it up to the pell mell rush of daily life, fatigue, distractions and over-scheduling. This trend is unsettling at best, downright scary at worst.
My Daddy used to say, “You can’t say thank you often enough.” Mom sat beside the Christmas tree or at birthday gatherings, diligently recording “who sent what” for us kids, and if our hand-written notes did not get posted in a timely manner, the gifts were “retired” to a hidden spot until further notice.
Our FFA and 4-H students learn the power of gratitude early in life — no thank you letter, no check! Certain (successful) companies distinguish themselves, and build brand loyalty, by finding creative ways to express gratitude to their customers, especially when they know that customer has a choice!
I’m certainly not the only one banging this drum. Dozens of books have been written on the subject. Oprah would have us end each day by journaling five things for which we are grateful. Clergymen and women encourage us to tithe and “pay it forward” at every opportunity. We tell the school seniors how easily they can set themselves apart from the competition by demonstrating appreciation for a leg up.
As a parched Hill Country community, we sometimes find ourselves praying continuously for rain. But how many of us stopped to say thanks to God, or whomever you honor as a higher power, when the drops begin to fall? Should we have to be reminded on the fourth Thursday of November to extend appreciation for these so-called “random acts of kindness” that populate bumper stickers everywhere? I think not.
And our teachers, coaches, staff members at school: I think so often we lapse into a mindset of, “Hey, they’re being paid to do a job, educating our kids,” or the classic, “I pay my taxes. That ought to be enough.”
Folks, I’m at area schools for one reason or another every week. These educators work long hours for which they are not paid, they often provide resources for students out of their own pockets, and many have to work extra jobs just to get by. A simple word of thanks goes a LONG way. Let’s don’t ever take these people, or what they do for our future generations, for granted.
The same thinking goes for that store clerk who opens up a new checkout line for you; the stranger who holds the door when your arms are full, or the driver who lets you in line when you’ve missed your turn. Just hit the flashers for a second — they’ll be much more prone to repeat the act in the future.
These are little things, but they can be practiced yearround until they become habits. And the world will be a better place.
I’m grateful for too many things to list here. So I’ll close by wising all of my neighbors and friends throughout the Hill Country a blessed Thanksgiving season.
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” — G.B. Stern
Lindy Segall is a Fredericksburg resident and retired executive at GSD&M in Austin. Email him at email@example.com.