I have been thinking a lot about gratitude recently. I think it is a key and effective tool in helping us to be happy. It is so easy to get sucked into the negatives: the grass being greener, the disappointments and moan about the mundane. It is also very easy to take things for granted. However, it doesn't take long to shift your perspective and suddenly be filled with gratitude. For example, there are parents in the world that have to watch more than one of their children die of starvation and/or disease. That surely gives enough instant perspective to shift most people's thinking into that of gratitude. I think most people in the 'western world' should be able to find something to be grateful for.
I am reading a book at the moment called 'Capital' by John Lanchester. It's a brilliant book and I recommend it highly. It's social comment, attack on inequality, satire of modern living, gives a view of different lifestyles from different and 'outsider' perspectives and more... Anyway, there was a part in the book that made me gush gratitude. And this is how it goes....
Quentina is a traffic warden who originally came from Zimbabwe and she has just been really horribly insulted by a woman that witnessed her not put a ticket on a car because the woman perceived she was being favourable towards a 'posh' car.
Quentina felt that she had some experience of the world, and of the people other than at their best, but she had never known a subject on which people became irrational as quickly and completely as that of parking in this absurdly rich, absurdly comfortable country. When you gave people a ticket they were angry, always and inevitably. And the anger could spread and become catching, as it had with this plainly mad woman, crazed with resentments. There were times when she wanted to say: Get down on your knees! Be grateful! A billion people living on a dollar a day, as many who can't find clean water, you live in a country where there is a promise to feed, clothe, shelter and doctor you, from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death, for free, where the state won't come and beat or imprison you or conscript you, where life expectancy is one of the longest in the world, where the government does not lie to you about AIDS, where music is not bad and the only bad thing is the climate, and you find it in yourself to complain about parking? Praise God for the fact that you resent getting this ticket, instead of rending your clothes with grief because you lost another child to dysentery or malaria! Sing hosannas when you fill out the little green form in the envelope stuck to your windshield! For you, you of the deservedly punished five minute overstay, you of the misinterpreted residents' bay area, you of the Loading Only sign, are of all people who have lived the most fortunate!
Instead Quentina said,
'Loading is taking place.'
That gives me some perspective on little life irritations like parking tickets!
And here are some quotations I found about gratitude that speak loudly.
Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
We learned about gratitude and humility - that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean... and we were taught to value everyone's contribution and treat everyone with respect.
Boredom is a luxury; be grateful that you can be bored.
Susan Sita Van Aken