Monday, January 25, 2010


Gratitude is something far more commonly felt than expressed. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that the words "Thank you"--the two words most used to express gratitude--are an automatic social and cultural response to even the smallest favor, from a "gesundheit" to being handed a receipt at a check-out stand, and often seem inadequate.

"Thank you" is just the thinnest surface layer of gratitude. Under "Thank you" lie an infinite number of layers, depending on the degree of gratitude felt, and the deepest layers of gratitude can never be adequately expressed.

Gratitude is a tree which grows from the seeds of kindness, and kindness is freely given without thought of repayment. But I consider gratitude to be a form of acquired debt which must be repaid. Far too many people, if the concept of gratitude being a debt even occurs to them, repay it with I.O.U.s or promissory notes.

I realize that I do far more bitching and moaning and complaining than is warranted by circumstance. I talk endlessly about what is wrong with the world (and there is much to talk about), yet very seldom express my equally boundless gratitude for the positive things in my life and in the world.

First and foremost, my gratitude for having been given, and still having, the gift of life cannot possibly be put into words. That gratitude is followed closely by my gratitude for my relative good mental and physical health. Despite my share of physical problems, I realize that compared to what others go through, mine, as Humphrey Bogart says in "Casablanca", don't amount to a hill of beans. Which doesn't stop me from complaining anyway. I am what I am.

I am also infinitely grateful to having been born into the family I was. There are no words or combination of words capable of conveying my gratitude to my parents. How could there possibly be, when I owe them so much? Every member of my family, from my grandparents through my aunts, uncles, and cousins, have never been anything but completely loving and supportive, and I realize that there are, tragically, many people who cannot say the same. And though my parents and most of my immediate family are now gone, my gratitude to them for having them to enrich my life remains undiminished.

Beyond the circle of immediate family is another circle, of friends. I am grateful to have been blessed with an extended family of wonderful friends who shore up my fragile ego and are unfailingly there when I need them. That they also put up with my...shall we say, "minor eccentricities"...and constant complaining is proof positive of the incalculable value of friendship.

One problem with expressing gratitude is, in fact, in finding how to do it properly and proportionately. Too-frequent and too-effusive expressions of gratitude soon lose their effectiveness and become the equivalent of a "thank you" given someone who holds a door open.

I've come to the conclusion that perhaps the best way to express gratitude is not through words but actions. Small gestures: a phone call, a sincere compliment, an invitation to coffee or a movie or dinner can speak more clearly than words. Something so small as being willing and making yourself available to listen to problems which may not directly concern you.

Gratitude is too often overlooked as a real and valid emotion, yet it, our individual awareness of it, and how we each respond to it, help to shape and define us as human beings.

And in case you were wondering, I'm grateful to you for reading my blogs.

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