August 02, 2010

Gratitude

"...gratitude is a debt which usually goes on accumulating like blackmail; the more you pay, the more is exacted. In time, you are made to realize that the kindness done you is become a curse and you wish it had not happened.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography"


Today I was reminded that one of the most important things that I can teach my children is gratitude. Someone helped me today not because they had to, but because they wanted to. It was something unexpected but much appreciated.


It made me think of the bumper sticker that encourages people to practice random acts of kindness. It is something that I do believe in, but also something that I have been known to make fun of or complain about. I suppose the best example of this is that every year I write a post about the hypocrisy of asking people to make charitable contributions during the holiday season.

If the charity is deserving of that sort of support then, well it is deserving all year round. Thus it seems to me to be somewhat disingenuous to give because of the time of year, but that is a separate issue from this. Let's spend a moment talking about gratitude. Let's think about how it really is important to have a sense of thanks for the good things we have and the bad things that we do not.

My children are very fortunate to attend a fine private school. Their mother and I send them their at great personal cost because we believe that they will get more out of it than the local public school can provide. Especially now, in a time in which the Los Angeles Unified School District is in crisis and so many schools are in shambles.

I'll never understand why we don't do more to improve public education. I'll never understand why people don't see the benefits in having a better educated populace, but again that is a different story. Gratitude demands that I spell out that I am grateful to be able to send the children there.

And gratitude demands that I acknowledge that they are often surrounded by children who come from very affluent homes and as such often have everything they ask for. That is a potential problem. When you want for nothing it is easy to forget to be grateful.

I have been guilty of this. There have been moments where I haven't been as appreciative as I could or should be. But moments like today serve as reminders, little beacons of light that inspire me. They remind me that the kind of children I want to raise think like this. They pay attention to those around them and offer help because it is the right thing to do, not because they are currying favor.

The quote above also reminds me that there have been moments in my life where I have been frustrated by offers of help. Moments where my gratitude was colored by anger and that perhaps I could have been more gracious in my response.

So today was a good reminder and another piece in the mosaic of my life. Another reminder of who I want to be and who I hope to help my children grow to be. Such a simple gesture and so much benefit. Sometimes life can be ever so painful and other times exceptionally sweet.

The yin and the yang make it interesting and the people make it exceptional.

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