From Grumbling to Gratitude
Halloween is my second favorite holiday. I love the community feeling of Halloween. Everyone is out on the streets, hanging out, watching the kids go from house to house. When my oldest son turned 4, we decided he was ready for real trick or treating. So we got the costume and the pumpkin head bucket and began walking the neighborhood. We walked him through the steps.
1. Ring the doorbell.
2. Say trick or treat.
3. Get candy.
4. Say, “Thank You.”
He nervously walked to the first door and looked back at us, RJ, and I are vigorously nodding our heads and giving him thumbs up, encouraging him on. He rang the doorbell and very softly almost inaudibly said trick or treat and then voila. The person at the door produced before him the most amount of candy he has ever seen in one place in his entire life. He looked at the lady with the candy bowl like she was some angel from heaven, he looked back at us to make sure this was really happening and not some evil joke and then he carefully chose a piece of candy, muttered ‘thank you’ and ran back to us.
He could hardly believe it. He just walked right up to the door, and she let him have whatever piece of candy he wanted. And the pattern repeated itself, door after door. Each house he would come running back to us amazed that these people were giving candy away. Best day of his life the next morning, he woke up and tried to convince us to take him out again.
I love watching those first-timers come to the door. They look up at you with these wide eyes of disbelief and gratitude. Now that my kids are older, they do not have the same perspective. Older kids are all business. They come to the door; asking exactly how many pieces they are allowed to have; they yell a thank you over their shoulders and are then off running through the yard, hurdling over the bushes to get to the next house. The older kids know the deal and are no longer amazed by the candy; they have goals; they have candy quotas to fill.
There is a perspective shift over time, from that beautiful, truly grateful face to an expectation, still thankful, but expected.
Jesus once said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!” Developing gratitude is a lot about how we see the world. We can see things as an expectation I deserve this, as drudgery I have to do this, as work, or we can see things as a gift I get to do this, I get to have this, something to be thankful for, a joy.
Over time we slowly change from people who rejoice, to people who expect gifts. Making entitlement is our default nature. And in this state, we can convince ourselves that anything we want, we are entitled to, and if we don’t get it, then someone in the universe is seriously messing up. And the bad news gets worse; often it is the people who have the most, who are the least thankful.
Gratitude research Robert Roberts broke gratitude into three ‘benes.’ Bene is the Latin word for good. Gratitude consists of three good things:
1. There must be a benefit, so a good outcome.
2. There must be a benefactor, someone who is doing this for us for our good. We must stop seeing good things like an accident or random, but specifically given to us as a gift.
3. There must be a beneficiary, someone who recognizes the benefit of the benefactor.
To be a beneficiary, to be a person of gratitude, means turning our blessings into praise.
What are your praises today?