A man lay in a hospital bed worried about whether he would live or die. He called his pastor to come pray for him. He told her that if he got well, he’d donate $20,000 to the church.
The pastor prayed and the man eventually DID get well and returned home. But no check came to the church. So the pastor paid him a visit.
“I see you’re doing quite well now,” she observed. “I was just wondering about the promise you made.”
“What promise?” he asked.
“You said you’d give $20,000 to the church if you recovered.”
“I did?” he exclaimed. “That goes to show you just how sick I really was!”
It is easy to give thanks — or to show it — when we feel grateful. But gratitude is not a feeling we can manufacture. Nor are we born feeling grateful.
Children are not thankful by nature. We teach them to say thanks and, in time, they develop stronger feelings of gratitude. My children could talk before they were weaned from diapers, but one thing they never said was, “Thank your for changing my dirty diapers. Dad, I know that is a messy job. I appreciate all you are doing for me.” Too bad. Sometimes I deserved a BIG thank you.
When they were sick, they never thanked us for sitting up with them at night. And when they became car sick at the beginning of a road trip, they never said thanks for cleaning it up. Even though their mother and I spent almost a half hour scrubbing the carpet in a convenience store parking lot at seven degrees below zero (our metric system readers will recognize that as -22 degrees Celsius), they never did said, “Gosh, guys, you’re the greatest parents ever! We are SO lucky to be part of this family.”
Naturally, we wouldn’t expect small children to thank their parents for being parents. And for most people, feelings of gratitude come with empathy as we mature.
But can we learn to feel more thankful? Here are three simple steps to help anybody live more thankfully and to respond more authentically.
First, recognize WHEN a thankful response is appropriate. We take for granted too many of the things that we should be giving thanks for.
Second, spend a moment reflecting on how another’s thoughtfulness makes you feel. Be intentional about this.
Then third, from a sincere feeling of gratitude, give thanks. When you do, you will also discover that you are becoming a happier person.