“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In the Oscar-winning movie “Casablanca,” Victor Laszlo who is the leader of the underground, is approached by Nazi Maj. Heinrik Strasser. Laszlo stays seated while Strasser stands. Laszlo says, “Excuse me if I’m not gracious, but you see Major Strasser, I am a Czechoslovakian.” Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939.
By not standing, Laszlo was not giving any respect to Strasser nor to anything he or the Nazi regime imbues. By staying seated, Laszlo made a statement.
So how can we make a statement in our lives? How can we show people how important they are to us?
We can do this by practicing gratitude.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines gratitude as “the feeling of being grateful and wanting to express your thanks.” It goes on further and defines grateful as “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.”
Three questions come into mind: In our daily lives, how can we show gratitude? When we show gratitude, how does that effect those around us? How does showing gratitude allow us to grow?
So, let’s take our questions one at a time and delve into the abyss that is gratitude.
In our daily lives, how can we show gratitude? Looking someone in the eye when you say “thank you.” After every at bat, Cal Ripken would walk down the dugout and shake hands and look into every player’s eyes. He would hold onto their hand until they looked into his eyes. He was grateful to be playing with these gentlemen and it was his way of saying “thank you” for their support. Anytime we say “thank you” to or interact with someone, make sure that you look that person in their eyes. Make them feel like they are the most important person in the world, because in that instance, they are.
Our second question is, “When we show gratitude, how does that effect those around us?” We are a voyeuristic society. Many of us learn by watching. If we see someone doing something positive, we are more likely to act in the same way. As I mentioned in a previous column, leaving the quarter in the shopping cart at Aldi is just a random act of kindness I though of doing. Now, I see many carts at Aldi that are left with the quarter intact. I don’t think I had much of anything to do with other folks’ choices to do so, but I like to think that someone saw me doing it once and now they are paying it forward.
Our final question is, “How does showing gratitude allow us to grow?” Showing gratitude allows us to remove the “blinders” life gives us. As we progress through our daily lives, we develop a focus that does not allow for us to see what is happening on the periphery. We are only focused on just what is in front of us. Yes, it’s a stop and smell the roses conundrum. We should try to view everything with an open mind and with a view of the entire world, not just the part which concerns us.
Forgiveness, kindness and gratitude. If we practice forgiveness, we break down the barriers that keep us from peace. If we practice kindness, we are able to uplift those who may not know nor have ever felt kindness or empathy. If we practice gratitude, we are able to show how much we appreciate one another.
Forgiveness, kindness and gratitude, these are three tenets of a good life.
Click here to read the column on kindness.
Click here to read the column on forgiveness.
Christopher McDonald is an accomplished educator and military veteran with experience in print and radio.