“Gratitude is the memory of the heart” (J. B. Massieu).
THIS IS THE SEASON FOR THE GIVING OF THANKS. The harvest is complete, provisions have been made for the winter months ahead, and as the snows begin to fall, we take time for one of the year’s most delightful customs, the tradition of Thanksgiving.
“Gratitude,” as J. B. Massieu defined it, “is the memory of the heart.” Just as the intellect can recall truths that are positive and enriching, the heart can remember events that were joyful and blessings that were needed. Gratitude is the appreciative remembrance of these things. It’s the recollection of good things that came to us over and beyond our merits. It’s the appreciation of grace.
Gratitude happens to be one of the most powerful gifts we’re able to give to those around us. Not many of us can resist its power. When someone expresses real appreciation for something we’ve done, that expression is a gift that calls forth the very best qualities within us. We respond to it with a healthy desire to be even more encouraging to others in the future. So why can’t we give that gift more often to those people we deal with daily? They’d respond to our gratitude in the same way we respond to theirs! By giving ourselves to them as grateful individuals, we would have granted them a wonderful grace.
In truth, most of us are grateful to some extent. The problem is, we either don’t make that gratitude known or we don’t make it known in a timely way. As a Greek proverb puts it, “Swift gratitude is the sweetest.” As powerful as the gift of gratitude is, it loses its potency with every day (indeed, every hour) that passes between the reception of the benefit and the expression of our gratitude for it. So that thank-you note needs to be mailed as quickly as we can get it written!
Nowadays, most of us would have to say that our lives have been blessed bountifully. Whatever problems or needs we might have experienced, these are not as great as the good things we’ve been privileged to enjoy. It’s a fact that we live in an age of affluence. But if we don’t properly appreciate the manifold goodnesses that grace our lives, we might as well be poor. Indeed, we are poor, in the very worst sense, if our hearts aren’t storehouses of gratitude.
“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).