When I was younger, I often wondered why some people spend so much time offering thanks to their respective deities. People, it seems, like to praise God for the smallest things, including – I kid you not – vacancy at a parking lot.
And there were those who are more likely to give thanks to God for a good deed somebody does rather than the person himself. It is not that I did not think that God doesn’t deserve our thanks but there must be something extraordinary narcissistic about a person who believes in an omnipotent being ensuring that his life is free from the minor inconveniences we all go through each day.
“God must be very insecure to want your thanks and praise all the time,” I reasoned.
It gradually dawned on me that it is not God who needs us to be thankful, but that it benefits us tremendously to have an attitude of thankfulness. Every spiritual tradition has some form of daily rituals that takes us briefly away from the busy routine of our lives for a moment of thanksgiving. At the very least, these serve as reminders that we don’t live for the sake of living.
But there is little doubt that at times, we see little to be thankful for. Like the biblical Job at his most miserable, we feel we do not deserve the suffering we, or our loved ones are going through.
I once spent an entire evening complaining to a friend about all the problems I was facing at that point in time. After we parted ways, she dropped me a note which read, “You’re welcome.” It was an awfully embarrassing moment, the realization that you were so self-absorbed that you forgot that the other party had given her time to you when she might have spent it on something more enriching. I offered to give her a treat the next time we meet, as a form of thanks and apology. To which she replied, “It wasn’t for my sake that you should remember to be thankful, but yours.”
We’ve all been through that. We feel justified in our anger especially when Life seemed unfair. And yet it is precisely at these times that a sense of gratitude makes the most difference. Because only when we still feel that there is something left to be grateful for can we be motivated enough to pull ourselves out of the mire and clay. And there are many things we can be thankful for when we look around us.
Just maybe not a vacant parking lot.