Let’s talk a little bit about appreciation. It’s been my observation that people with the largest chips on their shoulders, the ones who seem to feel that the world owes them a living, are the folks who are the most reluctant to be appreciative. Maybe it’s not surprising, since clearly they feel they deserve the most and the best, but I believe that attitude eventually works against them. Who likes to keep helping and giving to someone who takes it for granted?
Most people like to be thanked sincerely, at the very least, when they have gone out of their way for another person. The truly altruistic expect nothing in return, but there are few altruistic persons out there. Everyone else wants to be appreciated.
Since I enjoy writing thank-you notes, I do it often, but there are other ways of following up a kindness with thanks. We have a cousin who consistently gives us a phone call of thanks after we have hosted him and his family at our house. It’s a lovely tradition, and I look forward to his call.
On the other hand, I have a close acquaintance who seldom expresses anything but the most perfunctory thanks. Of course, no friendship will ever be a 50/50 deal all the time. There’s an ebb and flow to these things. I believe in “paying it forward” when it’s impossible to repay the same ones who have helped me, and that’s all well and good, but this gal is someone who has only taken and taken and taken from me, with never even an insincere offer to reciprocate my many favors. I have distanced myself from her out of a sense of being a sucker if I don’t — heck, I like to be helpful, but I’m not her chauffeur, her personal shopping assistant and babysitter.
So, in a word, try to be appreciative: make the call, write the note, buy the flowers, offer to return the favor. It makes people happy. It makes the world a better place. And maybe, someday when you’re returning from your Florida vacation, your neighbors whose driveway YOU cleared last winter, will have cleared the snow off YOUR driveway for you. That’s a true story — we brought them a chocolate cake in gratitude for the favor; and promptly received hot, homemade cornbread and a bag of gourmet chocolate truffles in return. (CHOCOLATE is a REALLY good reason to strive for gratitude!)
In a life slightly lacking in goals and ambition, I DO have a personal wish to “live a life of gratitude and service.” For me, this simple idea gives great meaning to many small things.
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