Many groups reach out to the poor in Third World countries and share with me their amazement that those who are so miserable have such “joie de vivre.” The poor are so grateful for simply being alive.
The gift of gratitude is rooted in an awareness of gifts. The English language has an almost untranslatable saying: “Take it for granted.” One can be filled with all sorts of blessings and, at the same time, be totally disgusted. Gratitude is the awe a person feels in identifying the traces of goodness in life.
In healing the 10 lepers, Jesus took note that only one had returned to thank him. I often wondered if the rate of one out of 10 is revealing of the percentage of grateful people in the human race.
Growing up, my dad was not very expressive of his love. He never kissed me and rarely hugged me. Yet when I came home to visit, he would prepare breakfast for me with meticulous attention. Also, he would carefully wake up before me and bring a tiny cup of Cuban coffee to my bed exactly at the moment I would wake. He loved me in and through gestures of care. From this, I learned that love has many manifestations — many languages.
Resentment undermines gratitude. For some, the grass is always greener on the other side. The root of resentment is insecurity, which is a lack of appreciation of one’s own gifts. It takes courage to move from patterns of self-rejection to appropriate self-love. No one is more modest than Mary of Nazareth, yet she acknowledges that the Mighty One has done great things for her.
Religion is the recognition of the source of all blessings — a realization that we are all related to the Creator. The Book of Job states it best: “Naked was I born, and naked I will die.”
Fundamentally, everything is a gift freely given. No one owns anything. St. Francis of Assisi understood this best. As a poet, praise came easy to him as all creation manifested God’s beauty.