Thanksgiving may be in the wind but that doesn’t mean our gratitude should be too. Each new day gives us something to be grateful for. Gratitude shouldn’t be a passing ship or a notion of a specific day. Gratitude should be a constant. The fuel to rise, to do, and to be.
I came across something the other day that read... Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie
Gratitude means the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness.
Readiness to return kindness. I’m going to ask that you take a few moments of pause and sit with that part of the definition quietly.
Readiness to return kindness.
Honestly speaking how often do you find yourself ready to return kindness? Consistently saying please and thank you. Smiling as you cross paths with someone. Willing to stop and help a stranger that looks lost or seemingly out of sorts. Ready to step in and help someone that appears to be in harm’s way. Giving of spare change to the homeless man on the corner or woman asking for help so she can help her family. Living in NYC I know first-hand how easy it is to get caught up in your own world. Constantly on the go. Operating within a bubble because the hustle is real and you’ve worked hard for all that you have.
Take this morning as an example. While walking out of my building one of my neighbors happened to be in the lobby with a few suitcases seemingly waiting for a car to pick him up and go to the airport. As I was approaching him I subconsciously, or consciously, smiled and said good morning. As I continued to walk past and out the building a deafening silence filled the air. No response to my good morning, no smile back as we locked eyes, no movement or recognition that I existed what so ever. He was in his bubble and I couldn’t help but think, wow that was rude. But immediately, I reminded myself that we shouldn’t give to get. While I could have gone through 100 and 1 ways as to how I thought he should have reacted to validate my actions, it wasn’t about me. To act in kindness is to do without expectation. To give to others willingly and openly for their benefit. So weather my action was reciprocated or not, the weight of giving was just the same.
It was a good morning for me, excited for the opportunity to begin a new day and get out into the world. Gratitude abound. It’s no secret that traveling can be stressful, never mind the rain and early morning hour. Maybe he had other things on his mind at the time, and perhaps my gesture of good morning and a smile was all he needed to turn things around and shifting gratitude into his presence.
Gratitude isn’t about being thankful because you have more than the next, or because you are better than someone else. Gratitude is the fundamental understanding that there is enough light to shine upon us all and from within us all.
Therefore this week’s challenge lies in the readiness to return kindness. Shifting our focus to others and living in gratitude through small acts of kindness. You’ll need a pen and paper, or better yet your journal for this one. Start by separating one page into two columns. In the first column start thinking and making a list of ways that you already exhibit kindness toward others throughout your day. Remembering nothing is too big or small.
Once you’ve sat with that list for a while in the next column start brainstorming on ways to expand and do more. What space exists for you to be better and do better? Are there specific people or circumstances that could use more of your light than you currently give them? What are the broad blanket actions you might be missing? Again, nothing too big or too small.
Saying hi, good morning, smiling, holding the door when you enter and exit a building, making eye contact, letting someone skip the line and cut in front of you if you notice they are in a rush, etc. ...
Once you have the second list curated commit to implementing two or three new tasks each day or each week until they start to become subconscious sustainable habits. Moving on only to the next two or three actions when the previous have become sustained. Continuing down the list in this way until it is complete and you are fully living in gratitude.
Imagine the fullness of your life and that of the world around you when everyone acts in kindness.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy