Monday, August 23, 2010

Gratitude - Show Appreciation for All the Good Things

Mother Teresa famously said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” Do you agree? Consider this story.

I come from a large family—seven brothers and sisters. That means I have more nieces and nephews than I can count. And now they’re having children. I estimate that this side of my family numbers about 70 souls, and they live all over the country.

This means that even though I’m the uncle, I’ve never even seen many of these kids. I hear things about some of them from time to time, but I don’t hear from them. And I have no problem with that. I accept that one’s life journey is a brilliant but mostly private story.

I don’t hear from them until they graduate from high school, that is. Or get married. Then I get beautifully printed announcements about their life passages. And yes, expecting gifts.

My problem is I’m gift-challenged. Most of the time, I have no idea what to give a person. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gifts people give me, but most of the time the gifts themselves aren’t something I really need or want. And that’s par for the course. After all, it’s hard to know these things. How does one know what another person really needs or wants? If someone needs or wants something, chances are they’ve already acquired it. Getting just the right gift is a tricky business. I struggle with this, do my best, but I rarely feel good about it.

Once, after receiving a high school graduation announcement from a nephew, I sent him a gift. I felt obligated, even though I hadn’t seen the child in about 15 years. I never received a thank-you note or any kind of acknowledgment.

Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did you feel? As for me, the lack of gratitude didn’t feel good at all. I felt I had made a mistake in sending the gift. I felt disinclined to continue giving gifts to strangers, even if I’m related to them.

So maybe Mother Teresa was right.

The disappointment made me realize how important a simple “thank you” is. I discovered that I expect to be thanked. When you do something for someone, the silence seems to say that your act of kindness wasn’t noticed or appreciated.

Thank people for what they give, and they’ll gladly give a lot more.

As a young man, I had the sweetest grandmother in the world. She knew I loved Elvis Presley’s music, so she would send me his latest albums as soon as they were released. During my West Point years, when I came home on summer vacation, I’d stay at her house instead of my family’s house. It was so much more peaceful. Sometimes I’d stay out all night long blowing off steam, but she never asked me where I had been or gave me advice.

But here’s the deal. I never adequately thanked her for all that unconditional love and support. And so when she died, I felt regret. I still do.

What do people regret? At the end of life, when you realize that all the life you’ll ever have has already been spent, what will you regret? Most of the regrets I hear about have to do with the failure to fully appreciate what one had—the relationships, the experiences, the beauty.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

I think you are right. Most people regret not telling or showing someone that you loved them more.

By the way, as to gifts, if I don't know a person well, I tend to send them a Visa gift card as a present. The cards mail easily, and they work like a credit card. The person can buy something they want, eat out, or use it to simply buy gas.



Sean said...

I think it's a very important theme. Not only what do older people regret, but what kind of advice would older people give younger people if younger people would listen?

What kind of advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

news4note said...

Some people derive pleasure while giving irrespective of gratitude or thanks received from the receiving end.

Anonymous said...

I don't express gratitude nearly as much as I mean to. Once I did thank a supervisor for something he did for me, I don't remember what it was. Years later he read that note at his retirement dinner! What a message that was to me about how much a few kind words can mean to someone!