By Mary Bisciaio
I was standing in a ridiculously long line in a grocery store recently behind a mother with her young daughter. The little girl, Amy, was three. I know that, because she proudly held up three fingers and announced it to me before the candy rack at check-out caught her attention.
She grabbed the closest bar, a gooey, chocolate, caramel, nutty, sweet creation (one of my favorites) and turned pleading eyes on her mother. “Please!”
Mom was up for the challenge, quickly choosing the brightly colored granola bar as a substitute. Little Amy studied it warily then Mom said, “What do you say, honey?”
Without missing a beat, without conscious thought, and without even looking up she responded, “Thank you.” The response automatic, and it got me thinking. (Remember I’m in a long line.)
WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN EARLY TO BE POLITE, TO RESPOND TO ANOTHER PERSON’S KINDNESS. I ADMIT I PROBABLY DIDN’T EXPLAIN WHY IT WAS NECESSARY TO MY CHILDREN, BUT MORE, BRAINWASHED MY KIDS INTO BEING ACCEPTABLE AS THE ADULTS THEY’D BECOME. NOW, THOUGH, I THINK GRATITUDE IS AN ART, NOT JUST AN AUTOMATIC REPLY.
Art, as we think of it, elicits an emotional response. Little Amy wasn’t feeling anything when she rattled off the appropriate answer. How many of us do? When we thank the person who holds the door, the person who picks up the item we’ve dropped, or the person who goes out of his way to do us a kindness, do we acknowledge them without really seeing them?
When was the last time I felt real gratitude? When I thanked my mother for her love, my father for his understanding, or my husband for his patience? Those were the easy times. How much harder to really express gratitude to our faithful postal worker who brings the mail through all the crazy Michigan weather. To smile and acknowledge the young man packing the groceries or the bank teller who finishes my transaction.
Recently, my husband and I spent some beautiful fall days in the upper peninsula. As we prepared to cross the Mackinac Bridge back to Mackinaw City, I clutched the four dollar toll in my hand, ready to hand to the woman in the booth. She smiled, informed us we were all set, and opened the gate, but we hadn’t paid. Apparently, the car in front of us had paid for us. Have a nice day! A stranger, an act of kindness, and that automatic response kicked in. We needed to thank them, but they were long gone, weaving their way over the bridge. I suspect calculated to prevent us from catching up to them.
Perhaps the art of gratitude is not just tinged with emotion, but a cry to pay it forward, be grateful enough to pass on a kindness to someone else. A beautiful lesson in thanksgiving to live and teach our children.
With the holiday around the corner, perhaps we need a new tradition at our holiday table. What or who are we truly thankful for? And how do we honor that gratitude with an action?
As we get older, waking each day, we tend to thank our maker. Knowing our children are safe and productive is another silent prayer. To the soldiers that live lives that encompass true sacrifice for all of us, we give our thanks. And watching our leaders on both side of the aisle attempt to make our country something to be proud of makes me sigh gratefully. (Maybe that’s wishful thinking.)
In any case, to all a very blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving. I am truly grateful for those of you who take your valuable time to read my books and my thoughts.