Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thanks for Being Thankful

Am I thankful?

I feel that I consistently thank others.  The bank teller who deposits my check gets a “Thank you.”  I thank the cashier at the grocery store who helps me.  I even thank the person who bags my groceries, throwing in a “Have a nice day” to boot.  It seems thankful.

We teach manners to our children so they will be liked, so they will appreciate others, so they will practice empathy, so they will be polite.  My kids are pretty good at thanking.  They usually say “thank you” without prompting.  Other adults comment on their nice manners.  Yet the more familiar the person, the less likely it is that I hear my kids say thank you.  It's rare to hear my kids thank a friend.  I still prompt them to thank my husband and me for doing something they ask, despite the abundant thank you cards we receive from them on Mother's and Father's Day.  They’re kids, so I sometimes cut them a little slack.

Am I teaching my kids to be thankful, or just to thank?  Are they saying “thank you” just because they’re trained?  

I feel that thankfulness can’t be taught; it must be practiced, and learned by example.  Is my thankfulness adequate enough to be taught by example?  I freely show appreciation to grocery store employees for doing their jobs, but it is difficult for me to appreciate my children or my husband for doing things for me that they most certainly don’t have to.  Mostly, they do things out of love or because I asked.  Did I thank my children for clearing the table after dinner last night?  I remember asking them to clear the table, to “put the cold stuff in the fridge.”  They did, and they didn’t even complain.  And I didn’t thank them.  I wasn’t thankful.

Am I going too far with this?  I roll my eyes when I hear someone go on and on about all the things in life they are thankful for.  It sounds so fake.  Do we need to be thankful for every little thing, when others do their jobs, when they meet the smallest expectation?

I think we do.  I think adults need to practice thankfulness, too.

When others do something for me, being thankful goes beyond saying thanks.  I learn to feel thankful for their service, for their kindness, for them.  Conversely, when I am thanked for doing something for another, I’m much less likely to be bitter about it.  If I feel appreciated, I probably won’t be grudging and grumpy about doing for others.  When I’m thanked, the next time I get an opportunity to do something for another person, I remember how thankful I am that someone was there for me, and do it graciously.

Thankfulness goes beyond “thank you.”  It’s a skill, a practice, a progression, and boy, do I have a lot of work ahead of me.

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