Gratitude for Little Things
IF SOMEONE gave you a large sum of money without expecting anything in return, would you not voice your thanks? Surely you would consider one an ingrate who did not express appreciation for this generosity. The benefactor might even be tempted to withdraw his gift because of such ingratitude. How much better it would be to show sincere appreciation!
Yet, no part of this gift could be enjoyed without the things we so often take for granted, things that we may consider small in our lives, but on which our life depends. What could be enjoyed if the sun ceased to shine? if we had no air to breathe? if there was no water to drink? if the vegetation did not grow? How could we appreciate living without a refreshing night’s sleep or our marvelous senses?
All the many things needed to sustain and enjoy life are free gifts from God. Psalm 106:1 counsels: “Give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good; for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.” Many of earth’s inhabitants never turn to God in prayer to acknowledge this loving-kindness. (2 Tim. 3:2) We should be thankful that he does not withdraw his gifts because of such ingratitude.
Some who turn to God in prayer do so only when they want to ask for something. While it is proper to make a request if it is in harmony with his will, can we expect God to listen if we do not regularly communicate with him to thank him for what he has already given? “Be persevering in prayer,” said the apostle Paul, “remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.” “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.”—Col. 4:2; Phil. 4:6.
Since gratitude is an expression of thanksgiving for a favor received, giving thanks in prayer should not be done in a mechanical manner, without meaning. Our prayers should be heartfelt expressions of appreciation to God for the things he has given to us, things that have far more value than large sums of money. When Jesus provided food for about five thousand men, he “took the loaves and, after giving thanks, he distributed them to those reclining.” (John 6:11) We could not imagine Jesus giving thanks hurriedly, as if he wanted to get it over with.
Being grateful to God for what he has provided is one way to show our love for him. Loving God is the greatest commandment, Jesus said. If gratitude is included in our love for God, would it not also be included in the other great commandment, that of neighbor love? Jesus stated: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Gratitude shown to our fellow man for kindnesses we receive is one way to show this love.—Matt. 22:37-39.
Too often humans are prone to look at what others have not done for them. How much friendliness and love would be aroused, though, if gratitude were shown for what is done! If such is expressed in words and deeds of appreciation, it will encourage others to continue their kindness. Have you ever held a door open for a stranger who rushed by without thanking you? Did you think kindly of him? How much better you felt when someone smiled and thanked you! It encouraged you to continue doing these little things.
When leaving a bus or subway, do you not appreciate it when others move aside to let you out? Why not express this gratitude with a warm “Thank you”? You will stimulate kindness by doing so.
The same acknowledgment for little things can be displayed in the family circle to make daily living more pleasant. We thank God for providing our food. Why not show gratitude also to the one preparing and serving it? A wife works hard to make her meals appetizing and nourishing. A few words of thanks will encourage her to continue her good work for the family. It adds to her enjoyment of the occasion and will increase her love for the grateful family. If the husband and children leave the table without a word of gratitude, the wife may feel that it does not particularly matter what or how she prepares, since it probably would not be appreciated anyway.
Not to be overlooked is the husband who works hard to provide the family with this food and other necessities as well. He would be heartened if the rest of the family would show him that his efforts are valued.
Our voice quality can also show our gratitude for little things. To voice a cold, lifeless, mechanical “Thank you” for a favor received will not bring out kind, generous and loving qualities in others. The need for kindness and gentleness can be seen even when dealing with the lower animal creation. Have you ever said something to a dog in a gruff, belligerent manner? What was the result? The dog probably put his tail between his legs and edged away from you. But if you said the same thing in a friendly, happy tone of voice, the animal would have leaped toward you eagerly and joyfully! It was not so much what you said, but how you said it. This kindness and gentleness is all the more necessary when dealing with the sensitive higher creation, man. In human relations, what we say is important. How we say it is also important.
Ingratitude for little things can lead to ingratitude for big things. When Jesus healed ten leprous men, how many were grateful? “One of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. And he fell upon his face at Jesus’ feet, thanking him.” (Luke 17:15, 16) The nine others acted as though they deserved to be healed. They expressed no gratitude for the kindness Jesus performed. They were ingrates! The humble Samaritan was grateful, not only for the favor, but also to the one performing it.
Having gratitude for little things enriches lives. It costs nothing, but the dividends it returns to you in love and friendship are enormous. For God’s gifts especially, Paul wisely urged: “In connection with everything give thanks.”—1 Thess. 5:18.