Like many of you, I was raised to be kind to others and do the right thing. That means that I hold the elevator when I see someone running to catch it. It means that I ask to help if I see another person struggling to carry a heavy load. It means that I let another driver merge into my lane when I spot that tiny light blinking on the corner of the car. I’m sure you do many of these very same things (and more) each day. Here’s the piece that I’ve been struggling with: Why does my gut turn just a little bit when my beautiful act of kindness goes unnoticed or ignored? Why do I grip the steering wheel just a bit tighter when I don’t get that thank you wave from the driver I just allowed in front of me? Truth be told, I am struggling with this.
The other night, I was talking with my wife about some volunteer work we have been doing for a local community organization. In the conversation, I said to her, “We’re both giving a lot of time to this, but it seems like you’re the only one they ever seem to thank. I’m getting pretty sick and tired of that!”
“Yeah?” she responded. “I don’t know. I think they appreciate both of us.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “They hardly say a word to me. They don’t even acknowledge my presence half the time.” I then went on to list the variety of amazing things I have done for the organization for which they have failed to thank me. Not exactly my best moment. Even as I rattled off my contributions to my wife, I felt a saddening disappointment. It was as if, in my frustration, I was making the conscious decision to rip apart something that I knew in my soul was beautiful.
As I am walking the path of the current For 28 Days Gratitude Challenge, I have been thinking a lot about the ways that I show appreciation to others and to our world for all of the beauty they contribute of my life. I’ve realized that while I often felt grateful, many times I failed to express my gratitude; a humbling realization to say the least. I also discovered countless other examples of grace and beauty in my world that I had overlooked because I did not take the time to see them…to focus on them. There are most likely other beautiful acts, people, ideas, and creations that I am missing even as I type these words. However, I’ve come to understand that my unawareness of these things only limits my expression of gratitude for them. It does not limit their beauty. This has been an important lesson for me to learn.
This brings me back to those important life lessons from my childhood: be kind to others and do the right thing. I still hold on to these. The new question for me is WHY? Why should I be kind to others? Why should I hold that elevator door or help to carry that heavy load? This is what I have come to believe: I do these things because a unique beauty exists within me and I exist to share it with others in our world. Whether it is acknowledged by others or not does not limit its beauty. However, I can decide to limit their beauty by withholding my contributions to the world out of a fear that they will not be valued or recognized as beautiful. In doing so, I only limit myself and resign to live a life that is a mere fraction of what it has the potential to be. Where’s the fun in that?
So As I enter Day 9 of my 28 day journey, I am deciding to live a life that is rooted in my desire to contribute my unique beauty to our world regardless of how others may or may not express gratitude. So go ahead Mr. Blue Mini-Van with the Honor Roll Student. Come on over. I’ll make room. I see your blinker.