Gratefulness vs. unthankfulness

Letting others know by my words and actions how they have benefited my life.

Gratefulness is recognizing how the efforts of others have benefited one’s life and making known to them how much their kindness is valued. The natural tendency of humanity is to self-focus and to overlook the many benefits that fill our lives. We take the sunshine for granted, until it rains. When we lose something, we realize what we once had and want it back. It is impossible to be grateful to someone if we do not first recognize the benefit we have received. Once we become aware of an investment or kindness extended to us, gratefulness is making a proper response to the appropriate individual(s). This might be as simple as saying “Thank you,” or as creative as our gratefulness inspires us to be.

In 1850, 15-year-old Andrew Carnegie worked as a messenger in a Pittsburgh telegraph office. He was grateful for his job but looked forward to weekends because, every Saturday afternoon, Colonel James Anderson opened his personal library of 400 volumes to boys. Andrew so enjoyed Colonel Anderson’s generosity that he resolved if ever wealth came to him, he would establish free libraries so that other children might receive similar opportunities. Over the following decades, the railroad industry steadily rose and Carnegie began investing in iron and eventually set up a steel mill outside of Pittsburgh. He soon became one of the wealthiest men of his day. Shortly after the turn of the century, on the day that Andrew Carnegie retired, he gave away $11.2 million. The first $5 million went for libraries and for disability and pension funds for Carnegie Steel Company employees. Much of Carnegie’s generosity was motivated by gratitude. From Colonel Anderson — whose library played such a vital role in Carnegie’s childhood education — to factory workers in his employment, Carnegie was grateful for the benefits, but also for the people who brought benefit to himself and others.

Gratefulness is complete only after the benefit has been traced back to those responsible for making it possible. Gratefulness is a debt and that sense of debt is the spirit of gratefulness and it should motivate us to show gratitude to the people behind our benefits.

During the upcoming holiday season, encourage your children to show their gratefulness by writing thank-you notes to those who invest in their lives.

Brought to you by the Four Corners Character Council. Character First! Definitions and information used by permission. Copyright Character Training Institute www.characterfirst.com.