Gratitude is a kind of thread that holds communities together. Often unseen, uncelebrated, and unnoticed by most as we go about our day to day work, but without it, the whole fabric of our city can loosen. Gratitude, this generosity of words of thanks and practices of appreciation for others, is important during normal and ordinary times. However during these days of crisis and uncertainty, gratitude is essential and even vital to the health of our city.
The opposite of gratitude is entitlement. Entitlement is a sickness that can beset a community if we allow it. Steve Maraboli says, “A sense of entitlement is a cancerous thought process that is void of gratitude and can be deadly to our relationships.” We can take for granted the power lines running to our homes, the pipes full of ready, clean drinking water, grocery stores and those working to keep them full, or good governance that provides road, emergency services and more. Entitlement can cause us to pass our neighbours without a care and scoff when we don’t get what we want. When the world becomes about us, we begin to think the world owes us something. Entitlement walks along a risky path that often leads to a dead end.
During this COVID-19 pandemic we are learning that the entitled approach to life does not hold water. We are realizing that when the stores close and we are isolated in our homes, what we have at the end of the day is each other. While entitlement might cause some people to go into withdraw and hoard or claw for more, others are discovering a path out of selfishness and towards love of others.
Often love of others takes the form of gratitude. In this pandemic we are forced to stop, and in the stopping we realize that we are rich at every turn. We can be thankful for toilet paper. We can be thankful for a loving spouse, good friends, and creative kids. We can be thankful for phone calls from loved ones and we lift our heads to see that we live in a neighbourhood with other amazing people, too.
Gratitude in dangerous times may be the anecdote we need. Thankfulness helps us confront the growing entitlement in ourselves, but in the most gentle way. Appreciation for others and what we have is a tender invitation us out of ourselves to see our world as it is: precious and worth caring for.
I have a dream that our community would emerge from this pandemic with new eyes to see ourselves and others. That we would thrive again, but not as individuals who look out only for our own good, but as a community that seeks the peace and prosperity of our whole city.
This week we can try some practices of gratitude. Thank our mayor, and city staff. Thank your grocery story clerk in a special way. Thank your neighbours. Tell a nurse or doctor or delivery person or teacher or business owner just how important they are to you. Go above and beyond to let others know the depth of your appreciation, because we have so much to be thankful for.