We’ve got to work at learning to be grateful Print
Cutting Edge
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Cutting Edge by Sr. Margie Lavonis

There are special times during the year when most of us at least make an extra effort to express our gratitude and appreciation for the people in our lives and the gifts we have been given — Mother’s and Father’s Day, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Now there are even designated days to celebrate grandparents, bosses, secretaries, and so on. For the most part these days are marketing tools to get us to spend our money. On the other hand, they do serve as reminders to us of how important it is to thank others and show our appreciation for them.

Gratitude is something we learn

As Christians we know that everything we are and have has been given to us by God, including our relationships. One way to express our love is through our gestures of gratitude, not just with cards or gifts on special days, but always.

Gratitude is something we learn. Many parents try to teach their children to be thankful. One often hears a mother or father say to a small child after he or she receives something, “What do you say?”

I was also taught to write thank-you notes when I received a gift or was invited to a dinner, etc. Now people send e-mails or virtual cards. Many don’t even bother. If you have gone to a wedding lately, you might know what I mean.

In our world it is so easy to get wrapped up in our much-too-busy lives that we often forget or neglect to perform even simple acts of courtesy. We fail to express our appreciation for acts of kindness we receive. Many times we don’t even think about it.

Taking people for granted

Even worse, some of us may consider some good deeds done as things others are supposed to do. I have heard people say they don’t feel obliged to thank people in the service industries because “that is what they get paid for.”

Some children have a similar attitude about their parents. They don’t think about thanking them for what they do because they feel that is their duty. That is what parents are supposed to do. Often, when they become adults and parents, they realize all their parents did for them.

Then there are those people, as my father used to say, who think the world owes them a living! We can take a lot of things and people for granted, including God.

Our relationship with God

As in all relationships, gratitude is also important in our relationship with God. When it comes right down to it, all we are and have comes from our gracious God.

A good habit to develop in our evening prayer or some other time of the day is to reflect on the past 24 hours and give God thanks for the many blessings, great or small, we have received. Even the fact that we had another day of life is something to thank our creator for.

I have written many times about my admiration of the people of Uganda, East Africa, before, but it is worth doing so again. The people in that country have beautiful custom of giving thanks for everything in their lives. Their word they use is webali.

Any time a person goes to someone’s home, the host thanks that person for visiting. Or if someone has a conversation with another, that person would thank him or her for speaking. They express gratitude for every human action no matter how big or small. It is an important part of their culture.

I have now experience of this since I am living with our Ugandan novices. They appreciate everything they have and receive.

The Ugandans have a lesson to teach us. There is no doubt that our world would be a better place if we regularly expressed our genuine appreciation for life and for all that we receive from God and one another.

St. Paul says it simply in Colossians, “…Always be thankful” (Col. 3:15). And I would add, and don’t forget to express it.

Sr. Margie Lavonis, a freelance writer, is a Sister of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Ind.