A 12-year-old girl and I were reading a passage about a major earthquake that happened in California a while back, and how Japanese students came to show their support to the victims. I asked her what the victims could do to thank them, and she said just say “thank you” because they don’t have anything to give. This answer is not right or wrong, but incomplete. There is magic in the word “thank you” when offered sincerely, there is no doubt about that. The word affirms what is good in your life, and it shows respect for others.
However, I believe that gratitude goes beyond saying, “thank you.” Gratitude is a sincere feeling which recognizes the value of the act of giving, and the abundance available to us all the time. Waking up and being in a state of gratitude during the day as much as possible allows you to see the goodness surrounding your life, and there is always goodness. You may have at least four senses functioning, you may have a bed to sleep on, you may have a body that supports you and takes you places, you may be able to see the sky and its magnificence, you may picture your family and friends and be grateful for them, or you may get caught in traffic and say, “the universe must be protecting me or teaching me something.” I don’t know if you remember some of the people that did not die on 9/11 but could have been working at that moment. One was getting donuts, one overslept, one went to get a haircut, one missed the train, and another one had to switch to a later flight. You never know, until you look back, that what you are going through is exactly what you should be going through.
An attitude of gratitude strengthens relationships, improves your health, helps you attract more of the same, invites others to say thank you, and keeps you in the present moment. The benefits of continuous gratitude are endless. If you need help being in a state of gratitude, here are some tips. First, have a reminder on your night table to say thank you for your day in advance. Second, keep a jar where you place pieces of paper with all the good things you are thankful for each day to be read at the end of the year. Finally, every time something “bad” happens, wonder how the universe is rearranging your world to protect you or to improve your life and move you forward. That’s it! All you need to do is to start being thankful.
So, we go back to why I believe the girl’s answer is incomplete. When we are sincerely grateful, the feeling comes from deep inside of us, and one word sometimes is not enough to express it. The earthquake victims actually wrote a letter to them, and also gave hugs, even though it’s not the custom in Japan, they understood. In our case, we can teach our children to be grateful, draw pictures for others, offer a big smile, write a poem, give flowers, bake cookies, or do something else that would require our time to make. Gratitude is a magical state of being.