When was the last time you showed gratitude to anyone? Thanks to many of us in this generation thinking that the world revolves around us, aided by a sense of entitlement, gratefulness is hardly on the agenda any more. It’s as if everyone around us is an indentured servant.
During the past week, sitting beside me in a taxi, was a secondary school student returning home from school. What caught my attention was the pile of notebooks in his small hands. The young chap had no schoolbag in which to put his books. As I watched him clutching his books, I looked back at my primary and secondary school years. I always had a schoolbag, but I don’t recall ever thanking my dad or mom for my bags. It was almost a certainty that I’ll get a new bag at the start of every session. With such a guarantee, giving thanks for what was certain to come, hardly crossed my mind.
Another incident also made me think about gratefulness. I was sitting in the office of a teacher at my host community’s government secondary school, and I watched as a senior student was threatened with withdrawal over the non-payment of her school fees. The girl was crying that her father refused to pay her fees. I asked about the fees and I was told it was ₦750. That’s just a bit more than my transport fare to and from the bank. After being informed that the girl’s father is a teacher, I offered to pay the tiny fee.
Imagine a teacher, who is supposed to know the value of education, refusing to pay his child’s school fees. How happy the girl would be if her father were to do his part happily to keep her in school? Here’s a father shirking from his responsibility, whereas mine dutifully paid my fees, and I never thought of saying “thanks”. To the average child, school fees payment is a parental duty, so expressing gratitude is not required. If a gift is provided, or Christmas clothes, then thanks may be offered.
Looking at the students around me, who have no textbooks and struggle in the backwaters of academic performance, makes me review the privileges I enjoyed while growing—privileges for which gratitude was never expressed. Having read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, I know that big differences in the present are linked to small differences, opportunities enjoyed by one child, which the other child did not have. Many things taken for granted, are things others are seeking.
Gilbert Chesterton once said, “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude”. Knowing that no person owes you a thing—not even your family members—will make you a fan of gratitude. With such a grateful mindset, you will give thanks for even seemingly mundane things like a mother or wife preparing food, or a child carrying a bag for you. This sets up a chain reaction.
Gratitude has a way of influencing people to do more. When someone sees your heart of gratitude, sees that you don’t take his/her efforts or resources for granted, such a person would be encouraged to do more. Many problems in relationships are linked to feelings of being unappreciated. Little thanks here and there can go a long way in keeping a person’s morale high.
Let me end with a quote by Michelle Obama, “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”. When I get home, there’s a lot for which I need to thank my parents.
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