When I was young I was taught to say grace at meals, say my prayers at bedtime, and say “please” and “thank you” to everyone for everything. Of course, throw in a “God Bless you” anytime someone sneezed. These were not so much lessons of gratitude as they were lessons in good manners. But these seemingly small acts of thanks are very important because they train the subconcious mind to thanking the universe for our good. And the more you thank the universe for your good, the more good you feel and experience. Newtown’s 3rd Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Or in laymans terms, what you give is what you get. Manners, it turns out, have a more profound use then we imagined.

There are so many facets to gratitude, it’s a topic I could speak about on so many levels but today it’s a “lack” of gratitude that I want to focus on. You know, where people and life can dump all over you and you say, thank you! Thanks for giving me that opportunity to grow.  If you look at life that way, as everything is an “opportunity” to grow and to choose a better response, you don’t have to look too hard. Life is considerate that way. Always giving us a plethora of lessons we have no desire to learn! Gratitude is no different.

What is your response to someone’s insufficient gratitude to you, let’s say, when you hold the door for someone and they don’t say a simple thanks? Or you do someone a big favor and they hardly acknowledge it? Or you endlessly take care of someone or something like a family, a business or hold a relationship together and feel unappreciated? I know, for me, I used to be indignant! Maybe a smart ass, “you’re welcome” to the door villian or a venting to friends over the slight of another or worse yet, the deep seated resentment of being the marytr. Maybe I would withdraw my acts of generosity if someone wasn’t grateful enough. Withdraw my love. That will show them! Remember the episode on Seinfeld where Jerry didn’t sufficiently thank his friend for the Rangers tickets and he then didn’t get tickets for the next game? His friend withdrew the gift, right? (yes, I reference Seinfeld a lot.)

So you think you’ve been generous, given of yourself and your time with no expectation of anything in return, right? Wrong. You at least expected a thank you, right? Of course you did. I mean we live in a civilized society don’t we? A small thank you, maybe even a gift card to Barnes and Noble, or for the big ones, a parade with a marching band in your honor down Main Street – well, it’s the least they could do! The truth is when we give of ourselves, when we are kind, considerate and generous, we expect something in return. We expect that our acts of kindness will be rewarded. We might even say, we need it. So let’s drop the idea that you wanted nothing in return, okay? That virtue is the only reward you needed. You wanted a parade. You wanted a marching band.

Think about a person you have had a recent experience with who was not sufficiently thankful to you for something you did for them- do you really believe that person wasn’t grateful? Maybe they are just like Jerry. Maybe their idea of showing sufficient gratitude is not like yours. Jerry’s friend wanted the “next day phone call”.  Jerry thought it was unnecessary. He had said thank you many times, did he really have to make a special phone call? He was grateful but just not in the way his friend expected it. That isn’t a lack of gratitude, that is a matter of different interpretations of good manners.  Just because you didn’t receive gratitude in the form you expected or required does not mean that the receiver was not thankful for it. Even if they said nothing at all. Is that bad manners, yes, was there a lack a gratitude, I say maybe not. The poet Antonio Porchia said, “I know what I have given you… I do not know what you have received.”

And this is all that is required of us. To know what you have given. To be the person you want to be regardless of rewards, praise or thanks. Remembering that “the rich man can keep on giving because there is no end to his wealth” and that rich man is you. There is no end to your wealth and the more you share of yourself, the more you will receive and a “thank you” is the least of it. Someone’s acknowledgment and thanks is nice, but not necessary. The universe has eyes. It sees. It knows. Nothing is ever missed. Every gift that is given is received with gratitude.

Whenever I get miffed about somone’s lack of gratitude or manners, I remember this quote from Mother Teresa, “I must be willing to give until it hurts.” I am pretty sure she wasn’t talking about not getting a bottle of wine from her neighbor whose mail she got while they were on vacation in Mexico!

But sometimes we actually do give until it hurts and oddly enough, those are the times we don’t expect any thanks. Taking care of your children, your loved ones, someone who is sick – we don’t usually require thanks then. We get what we need from ourselves and this is the lesson this quote is pointing to. That there is gratitude for every kind and generous act you commit but maybe the only tangible evidence you will get back is the one you give to yourself, is the reward you feel in yourself. And this, my friends, is really the only one you need.

Gratitude, like forgiveness, is for you from you. It is your gift to yourself. You can appreciate and be thankful for your open heart, your generosity, your kindness, your love. You don’t have to wait for anyone else’s response. For anyone’s balloon-o-gram. In fact, what they do with your love, with your generosity is their business, not yours. When you make it your business, you are caught. Caught in temptation to withdraw your love and generosity and when you withdraw it, you can’t but help feel its effects. YOU feel less love. You just feel less.  What you give, you give to yourself. What you hold back, you hold back from yourself because to give and receive is one. That is big: to give and receive is one. They aren’t separate. It’s a bonus when the other party appreciates and is grateful for your acts of kindness and generosity but as Marianne Williamson says, “Don’t be at the effect of another’s lovelessness. Elevate your response.”

This doesn’t mean being walked all over, letting other people take advantage of you, there is giving and there is “idiot giving.” If you are feeling used and abused, this doesn’t mean keep doing that, what it does mean is knowing your limits and checking yourself for how you are feeling. If you aren’t giving freely, then you aren’t giving anyway.

I have a sticker on the mirror in my bathroom that says, “Give of yourself.” Corny? pretty much but it is a reminder to me that there is no end to my abundance and the more I give of myself, the more of myself I experience. That big, rich fullness of my being that knows no bounds. That what I feel is proportionately “mirrored” back to me by what I extend. Give joy, feel joy. Give kindness, feel kindness. Give love, feel love. Hold back joy, kindness, love and I know I am only holding it back from myself. It is great when others are appreciative of your gifts of love, time, energy and thought but I’ve come to realize it really isn’t necessary for my gift to be received by anyone other than myself. That no parade is necessary.

with gratitude, maeve