GRATITUDE: The virtue by which a person acknowledges, interiorly and exteriorly, gifts received and seeks to make at least some return for the gift conferred.
When we were all in grammar school we learned that after significant challenges in the “new world,” people came together to share food, stories, warmth. Did it actually happen that way? We of course will never know. For generations we’ve been fed by the story, and its invitation to gratitude.
True gratitude has three parts: acknowledgment that a gift has been received, appreciation expressed in thankfulness, and as far as possible some return for what has been freely given with no obligation on the donor’s part.
An important aspect of gratitude, for me, is the expression, the “thank you.” In our family we have a saying, “I know you know, but it’s important to say.” When I was young my mom instilled the value of the thank you note. That is a big part of my communication to this day.
In the end we are not really grateful for things, but rather for the source of them. While I was grateful for the bike under the tree on Christmas, I was mostly grateful to my parents.
In an age of entitlement, let me simplify things: EVERYTHING is a gift. There, plain and simple.
So say “thank you,” to family, friends, co-workers; to clergy, religious, parishioners.
Say “thank you” in prayer, to the source of all our gifts (even those that just don’t seem like gifts at the time!)
Then, DO something, in recognition and return, for the gift(s). Volunteer, devote a little more time to prayer, help a friend.
Bishop Daly once said this to me: “If you start each day with a prayer of gratitude, your whole day will be more joy filled.”
Our life example can be a prayer of gratitude; let’s choose that.