November brings with it cooler weather, leaves of gold and the feeling of thanks in the air. It’s the perfect time to begin a practice of gratitude. You Know Neen is hosting the 2nd Annual 30 Days of Gratitude blog series, a place where the experience of gratitude will be explored and shared. I, along with several other contributors will be sharing our thoughts on all things gratitude.
Written by: Mathew Powers
The rationalization of gratitude often leaves me befuddled. Often gratitude arises only when a tangible, beneficial result presents itself. However, there is one exception — a completely illogical, yet wonderful exception. Before revealing that example, let me explain.
For instance, there’s usually an appreciation of mom and dad, but it arrives with a side of “what’s expected of parents.’ Parents are often judged, both by their kids and those on the outside looking in, with regards to their children’s success. You’ll often hear a child say, “My parents worked hard and sacrificed to make sure we had a good education…I’m so thankful for them.” Notice the caveat: gratitude emerges as the result of an action. And, in this case, as per the norm, a positive result or positive effort evokes a feeling of gratitude.
In other words, they are good parents, because.
There’s appreciation of a job, but only so far as one is compensated or respected. Many appreciate doctors, once they are well. Same goes for a handyman or handywoman; gratitude only surfaces once a job is deemed sufficient (or better).
- Gratitude is provided to the doctor, the fix-it person, and the employer, because.
- Gratitude is bestowed upon our friends, because they helped us get through a trying time.
- Gratitude is noted to God, because he cured a loved one, provided comfort, or made life easier.
- Gratitude is attached to modern science because it helps our quality of life.
- Gratitude is offered to rain, because it is tranquil, is good for the lawn, or helps the crops.
- Gratitude is shown to pets because they are so loving and provide companionship.
Gratitude is given, because.
The danger is this type of gratitude-attitude lies in the fact that life ultimately exists as a giant vending machine stocked with many choices such as friends, family, spouses, pets, God, philosophers, and more. The larger the vending machine, the more potential choices exist. However, each one is chosen only when a need arises, such as a chore, a laugh, a date, sex, comfort, advice, companionship, hanging out, or money. Push a button, the person needed is picked, and the end result is happiness for the person doing the choosing. The reasons do not need to be overtly selfish, immoral, or unethical. Nonetheless, gratitude results from the benefit of that person providing joy, happiness, fun, advice, pleasure, and so on.
Gratitude arrives, because.
Until you have kids. That is the exception.
Suddenly, gratitude no longer results from selfishness, but selflessness. Yes, kids provide immense joy and fill one’s heart with love. But, kids do not give, they take; it is their nature.
- Parents do not thank a child for keeping them up all night.
- Parents do not thank a child for being so expensive.
- Parents do not thank a child for taking forever to put on a coat in the morning
- Parents do not thank a child for screaming in the backseat and giving them a headache.
- Parents do not thank a child for dominating the T.V.,
- Parents do not thank a child for spilling a cup at the table
- Parents do not thank a child for when that child utters as teenager, “I hate you.”.
- Parents do not thank a child for his or her explosive diaper.
Despite all that, I, like most parents, am incredibly grateful for my children. They force me to adjust my schedule. They are often rude and selfish. They force me to drive all over town every day. They force me to watch cartoons I don’t like and laugh at the same joke several hundred times. They force me to work hard when I’m sick, even though I want to lay down in bed.
None of that matters. The love for one’s child is unconditional, unquantifiable, and unexplainable. But, it is genuine, and it is enormous. My kids have not directly done anything for me, outside of merely existing. When they do show love and provide affection, I am grateful for those moments…because. But, that’s not why I’m thankful, overall. I loved my kids before they could walk or talk. In fact, I loved my kids when they existed as nothing more than a black and white image at the doctor’s office. Simply put, I was thankful for them before I knew them.
Gratitude for one’s kids is pure. It’s natural. It is real.
Mathew Powers is a freelance beer writer and historian, who writes for several publications — when he’s not busy drinking beer, that is.
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