Gratitude, Generosity and Peace

How does gratitude serve you? When someone expresses thanks to you, how do you feel? When you feel genuinely grateful to someone, what do you do?

Recently Dan Rockwell posted on his blog, Leadership Freak, on gratitude. He writes:

“Ungratefulness spoils everything it touches.

“Ungratefulness slithers out of a black muck that’s called, ‘don’t like,’ ‘don’t want,’ ‘don’t have,’ and, ‘not enough.’  There is no positive side to the slimy beast of ungratefulness.”

This post reconnected some dots for me between gratitude and generosity.

When I feel grateful, there is enough. I am enough. Even just saying the word, seeing it on the screen, brings me to a more peaceful state of mind and body. It brings to mind the people in my life—my parents, husband, children, friends, colleagues. I recall instances when someone went above and beyond to help me, or when they thought of me and took to the time to call or write. I feel humble. I feel connected.  I want to share what I have with others.

Maybe it was seeing the words of ungratefulness, ‘not enough.’ It reminded me of my favorite book, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. The authors make a distinction between scarcity and scarcity thinking. Scarcity is when there actually aren’t enough resources to meet everybody’s needs; scarcity thinking is operating as if this were the case, when it really isn’t. Scarcity thinking at its best may foster healthy competition and innovation, and at worst, aggression, indifference, or even violence. In contrast, the Zanders discuss the notion of abundance. If we lived and operated in a world we assumed to be abundant, or at least enough for our needs, what would that look like?

For example, the woman parked down the street does not have enough coins to feed the meter. She asks me if I have change for a dollar. If money between us were actually scarce, then it would make sense to have an equal transaction—she gives me her dollar bill, I give her four quarters. In a world where we each need to look out for our own, we cannot afford to give anything away for free. But that is scarcity thinking, because I have spare change. Sure, I could spend those quarters to buy a candy bar later; or instead, I could trade them for human connection. If I stop even briefly to think about it, I know which one is the higher value purchase. But it’s not about buying gratitude from someone else.   It’s about the origin of generosity.

That peace that comes with thankfulness is the antithesis of scarcity. When I needed coins for my meter, and a stranger gives me her spare change, it shows me that there is good in the world. I can seek the help of strangers and they will offer it. And if that’s the case, how much more wonderful when I think of my amazing tribe of friends and family who stand ready to hold me up, as I do them? I feel safe. There is enough. So I can give away what I have today, because I know I will get what I need tomorrow, or whenever I need it.

When we practice gratitude, we practice peace. We exude it. It manifests in our expressions and actions. Gratitude makes us creative, by lifting the need to hoard and compete. We come together, collaborate, look for our common passions and visions. We offer more of ourselves to others because we have faith that they will do the same. We know because they did it before—that is why we are grateful.

For a much more eloquent and important view on gratitude, please read David Brooks’s most recent op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/opinion/david-brooks-the-structure-of-gratitude.html

26 thoughts on “Gratitude, Generosity and Peace

  1. Thank you, thank you, Catherine! I have been stressed lately as I ponder a major career shift. I had earmarked today as an opportunity to make some contacts, do some research, etc. only to find that my family had other ideas and sprung several to dos on me. I found myself gearing up for a good angry sulk. A little voice tried to interrupt and suggest that maybe I should reframe my thinking, but I was having none of it. Your post, and the link to David Brooks’ column, was enough to break through. The entire reason I can contemplate a career change, and the potential of starting a master’s program to get me there, is because of my family and the way we work as a team, and how they believe in me. Of course I am grateful for them. How could a few small errands have made me forget? 🙂 I am most grateful for the reminder that came through in your wise words, esp, “When we practice gratitude, we practice peace.”

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    • Hi Nancy! YAAAAAYYY!! I’m a little teary–who knew that a little blog by me could actually make a (any?) difference for anyone?? I mean, that is why I write it, but it’s still a little surprising when it seems to work? Thank YOU for the feedback and the insight–it’s a nice reminder for me, as well. 🙂 And hey, have a great day with your family and BEST WISHES in your pending transitions–I look forward to reading about it all! 😀 xoxo

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      • Don’t be surprised. You’ve got great insights, combined with a wonderful way with words. I’ve been browsing my notebooks lately and came across notes I took when reading Parker J. Palmer’s _Let Your Life Speak_ . He describes inner work as being as real as outer work and says that while inner work is personal, it doesn’t have to be private, that it can be done together. Happy to have a friend on this journey!

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  2. There’s another word that I’d add: grace. From my perspective, our very existence is a gift, and from that gift, all else flows. Whether we have a coffee maker in our hotel room, or change for the parking meter, a family or none, or poverty or wealth, we still live out our days in gratitude for the gift of existence.

    Beyond that, our recognition of the gift also leads us to recognize that every person is infinitely valuable:worthy of our attention and respect. Their needs become our own, and we learn, over time, that there always is enough. In fact, the more we give, there more there is to give. It just happens — and aren’t we glad for it?!

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  3. Dear Catherine,

    This article of yours brought tears of joy in my eyes. 🙂

    As I thought that I should pay back to society at least that much as I have taken from it. And there are good people like you. Like your example when we feel that there is goodness it brings joy and hope and a subtle current of love runs forth from our hearts to our entire persona 🙂

    I am grateful to you for this article. A heart full of gratitude is a heart full of love–a beautiful heart.

    Yes you are making a great difference to the world with your words and deeds. Please keep it up. It’s spreading like a wildfire even when you don’t know it.
    { You might have observed that I used example of contagious diseases in my previous comment and here again I use the example of wildfire–they both have negative connotations and I am using them for positive deeds. it might be so because more often than not we all live in a world where we see hatred, indifference and negativity spreading too quickly whereas goodwill and peace take time to make roots in hearts. }

    I feel you should keep doing what you are doing. I thank you very much and I am a better person, more richer, more complete and more peaceful after having read this article 🙂

    Thanks,
    Anand

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    • WOW, THANKS! It feels so nice when I finally write something that resonates widely… Trying to reach that state more often and more efficiently. I think I will study my heroes more–David Brooks, Ben Zander, Simon Sinek, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Rachel Naomi Remen. Their gifts for writing inspire me every day! Happy weekend!

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      • I am glad you feel so good about your writing. You would feel better day by day I hope. It’s a noble cause you are working for and your presence is giving solace to many people–sometimes without your knowledge 🙂 🙂 Isn’t it beautiful?

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  4. Pingback: The Green Study Catnap: Talk Amongst Yourselves | The Green Study

  5. Lovely post, Catherine! Thank you for expressing so beautifully the importance of gratitude, abundance, and connection. I really like your blog and am grateful to Michele for introducing it to me/us. Rachel Remen is also one of my “heroes” and I share your affinity for the Zanders’ beautiful book and will recommend one back at you: “How, Then, Shall We Live?” by Wayne Muller will take your breath away—both in terms of the ideas he expresses and his absolutely magnificent writing. Coincidentally, today’s post on my own blog was inspired by David Brooks, too: http://ayearoflivingkindly.com/. I’m looking forward to following your blog.

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    • Hi Donna!
      I am reading through your posts and I love every one so far! I really do think we must have been sisters in a past life, you write exactly what I think and feel… *sigh* What a gift, to find a fellow tribe member here. Maybe this is where we can sing together and our combined voice of love, understanding, and mutual respect can help our world move toward peace and harmony? Holy cow, that looks positively cheesy… And it’s what the world needs! 🙂

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  6. There’s also some research that says fostering a sense of gratitude changes brain chemistry and encourages growth in some parts of the brain (sorry, I have the references somewhere…). As someone with bipolar disorder, keeping a gratitude journal and focusing on that mindset is an important part of how I manage my illness.

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    • Hi Sandy!
      I am slowly going through a slew of comments in the past couple of weeks. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving your thoughtful comments. The research you mention looks familiar; maybe I read it in _Positive Psychology In A Nutshell_, by Illona Boniwell? The discipline of a gratitude journal could benefit us all in myriad ways, don’t you think? 🙂

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  7. This post touched me deeply. If I were a religious person (and I am), I might say that it is so full of the voice of the Holy Spirit that no religious words were needed, except the ones that matter most (gratitude, generosity, connection). THANK YOU for posting this! I will reblog it, if that is allowed.

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  8. Pingback: Gratitude, Generosity and Peace | Memphis Service Ministries

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