Gratitude, the missing Ingredient for Happiness
by Judith Rose 1/12/2020
William I, who conquered England some 930 years ago, had wealth, power, and a ruthless army. Yet although William was stupefyingly rich by the standards of his time, he had nothing remotely resembling a flush toilet, paper towels, or Monday Night Football.
King Henry VIII lacked central heat. Catherine the Great had to make do without hairspray or collagen-enhancing face cream. The average American takes these things and more blithely for granted. . . . You’d think we would be euphoric concerning our blessings. Yet instead of being grateful we don’t have bubonic plague, . . . we complain about simple aches and pains.
It is time for Americans to regain perspective and learn to be aware of the multitude of blessings we enjoy that kings might have envied. (Adapted from “Rich as a King,” David Owen.)
Unlike the ancient Babyonians who attempted to build a tower to reach heaven, we sit before our computer “towers” attempting to achieve technological “heaven” while leaving God and His blessings blissfully beneath our notice.
As a new year and decade begin, after the noisemakers, bells and whistles, it might be good for us to take a trip around our houses and look for innovations unavailable even to a Vanderbilt or Rockefeller nearly 100 years ago. Let’s begin with that great labor saver, the modern kitchen. If you had to give up something, would it be your refrigerator? Maybe your dishwasher? No!! Your food processor, or your mixer? Maybe you can appreciate the fact that you don’t have to provide wood, chop it in the middle of winter and arrange it in your wood-burning stove. Then you will stoke it later and hope there are still live coals in the morning so you don’t have to start the fire all over again. And by the way, your walls get woefully sooty from smoke, leading to spring cleaning and lung problems. Now can we appreciate our modern life-saving devices and medicines?
Now think about this: which is better, trying to find a warm place next to the fireplace or stove or sweating in the hot summer as you process your food that you cannot buy at a nearby supermarket–because there aren’t any? I believe it’s called growing your own. Or how about going without ice from your convenient refrigerator. Then there’s those pesky food-borne illnesses that are more prevalent without refrigeration. We could go on and on in every aspect of modern life. And yet we complain if anything goes wrong with our technological servants.
We definitely take our blessings for granted and assume they will always be here for us.
Because we use our wonderful modern inventions so often and unthinkingly, we “see” them less and less. But we can experience gratitude if we truly look around us to see and appreciate the modern miracles given to us by God.
Which leads us to the apt definition of a grumbler provided to us by George Bernard Shaw: A grumbler is a feverish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [them]happy.
What we have is enough–more than enough–if we will only recognize it. We often succumb to the tendency to discount what we have because of focusing so much on what we want. . . It takes maturity and sometimes perspective to be able to place the proper value on gifts and blessings–to know what counts. [Ensign Magazine, 02-82, pg. 59-62 “And It Will Surprise You”]
But even more important, notice and appreciate the people you care about and who care about you. One of the best ways we show our gratitude is by blessing the lives of those around us. When was the last time you told someone you love how much they mean to you? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone who has always been there for you, someone who has sacrificed for you, someone whose heart has always been filled with hopes and dreams for you? Absence of gratitude is a blackmark on our society, the epitome of a narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and appreciation.
Despite our technological triumphs, we are none of us self-sufficient. Ingratitude can express itself in ugly egotism. Conversely, where there is appreciation, there is courtesy and respect for the rights and property of others. Without it, there is arrogance and evil (Ensign Magazine, Nov. 1964, 117).
In the end, it is not things that are important, though we can rightly begin there. Instead, it is the expression of gratitude that makes us happy. In the words of Neal A. Maxwell, “We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.”