Gratitude is a feeling we’re reading a lot about at the moment. It’s on all social media posts, podcasts, and how we end our fitness classes. It turns out that gratitude is connected to all kinds of things, including our happiness and optimism. Gratitude is a feeling that lessens stress and enhances overall health.
But I want to focus on a different, deeper kind of gratitude. I'm not talking about the the 'thank yous', or the cards, or the talk. This is not the gratitude where I get something and now I show that I'm thankful.
There’s a deeper gratitude that I want to speak of. The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as seeking "to return kindness". Gratitude wants to complete the circle, it wants to give back. The kind of gratitude I am talking about does not in fact need words although, paradoxically, it is often found within conversation. It is the gratitude that is naturally emitted right in the midst of a meaningful relationship. It is the gratitude that is so obviously transparent when you are with someone who wants to be in your company, who is so clearly listening to everything you say, whose expressions leave nothing other than the realization that they are delighted to be with you.
My mother is one of the most grateful people I know. She is fighting a horrible battle of pancreatic cancer. She is a simple women who was raised on a farm in Italy and began working in the fields at the age of 8 taking care of the animals and her younger siblings. Her deep desire was to become a nun and serve God but her parents had other plans for her. She is a fierce woman who married a charming young man, my deceased father, and together they moved to Canada with no money and not speaking a word of English. They lived a simple happy life and raised 3 daughters, me being the youngest. They had just enough money to splurge on KFC take-off once a month and we looked forward to that meal every month. My father passed away at the age the young age 50 leaving my mother scared and confused on how to write a cheque and pay a bill at the bank. Fairness and good fortune were not her experience of life; rather, she faced a hard life with much loss and sadness. She never had money to spare and hers was a simple life as a result. But I never met a more grateful person in my life.
Have you ever been in a conversation in which the person is really listening to every word you are saying? That they’re not formulating in their head what to say next or turn the conversation back on them? How special do you feel when you are truly being heard. It’s an absolutely brilliant feeling! I’m the youngest in the family and gave my mother the most difficult time never wanting to conform to the norm but when entered the room, there was never any doubt that she was grateful for me, not just grateful for something I had done or something I had given her, but for me. Her gratitude for me came without judgment or expectation. Her gratitude in just being connected to me.
Next time your child, spouse or friend enters the room, give gratitude for their presence and not as an attached to something. We are grateful for how well our children are doing at school, in sports, in music and we should but remember the deeper gratitude of pure joy of sitting without judgement or expectation and just listening to someone. Gratitude helps us accept their imperfections and their limitations.
As we enter the holiday season, look towards gratitude, that deep gratitude. It is in gratitude that we realize we are blessed; it is there that we connect and it is there that our relationships grow.
Be not selfish, but selfless.
Give in the spirit of love,
Through caring actions and good works.