November is the month where we give thanks and express gratitude, especially at Thanksgiving. It is during this time that many of us slow down for half a second from our busy lives, important careers and daily worries to voice what we are thankful for. We say things like, “I am grateful for my family, my home, my job, my kids, my car, etc.”
This month, I want to flip the script and challenge you to stop and ask yourself, “Who is grateful for you?” I want to challenge you to stop feeling neglected and unappreciated by those around you, and instead, look for the genuine expressions of gratitude that we often overlook out of frustration, busyness, lack of paying attention or simply because they didn’t say it in a way that you wanted to hear.
The definition of grateful is simply feeling or showing thanks of appreciation for something. So I am asking you, as part of this exercise, to re-frame how you might normally expect someone to express gratitude and instead focus on how they show it and express it through simple gestures. Often times, true gratitude is more about what is not said than what is said.
So who is grateful for you – family, friends, neighbors, strangers, young people, pets? Depending on who you are, the life you lead, and the important role you play in their lives, they may all be grateful for you.
Family is a funny thing. If we are honest, we will admit they are all at least a little dysfunctional in some way, and some more than others. You know what I’m talking about! But even in the most dysfunctional, drama-filled families, if you can look past the verbal sparring and punches you’ll typically find that they are grateful for one another. And they show it not so much in what they say, but in their actions and how they show up or stand up for one another without being asked.
Gratefulness can be expressed in different ways. It’s the forehead kiss and brief gentle look your husband gives you when he says, “I’ve got it this time”; when your newborn wakes up for the third time in the wee hours of the night screaming at the top of her lungs. It may be the one and only time your husband gets up to share in the responsibilities, but the sentiment, “I’m grateful for you and all that you do” is implied just the same. It’s a matter of whether or not you recognize it in your overwhelmed and exhausted state.
My sister is a single mother of a special needs child with a genetic defect who can’t walk, talk or care for himself. She, like all parents of children with disabilities, has sacrificed much to love, care for, provide and ensure the physical safety of her child. It can be physically tiring, mentally exhausting and emotionally draining, even with a loving family support system. On days when you are at the end of your rope, you’ve been beaten down and you simply have nothing left to give, it’s only human to doubt yourself. What am I doing this for? Is it worth it? Does this child even know who I am or have any idea how much I love him?
The answer is yes! My sister was reminded recently with the simplest of gestures and two, not-so-well-spoken words during my nephew’s recent guardianship interview by the family courts, which is required now that he is 18 years old. The court officer sat down in front of my nephew and began to talk and my nephew, in true form, was distracted, uninterested and looking around at everything but the man in front of him. But when the court officer asked, “Do you know who your mother is?”, my nephew suddenly stopped looking at the ceiling and slowly turned his head to look at his mom and burst into a big smile. The officer then asked, “Do you want your mom to have guardianship of you?” My nephew immediately replied without prompting, “uh-huh.” His simple gesture and response brought tears to my sister’s eyes. It was all the confirmation she needed that he is grateful for her.
Even pets, like people, express gratitude in their on special ways. My sister had taken a rare vacation and left my mom and I to take care of her two most precious gifts in the world – her children (translation – her son and her dog.) My sister’s Yorkie, who often acts like a child in his terrible twos, expressed his gratefulness to me after a long afternoon of me chasing and yelling at him to come in from the 100-degree Texas heat. He is a house dog, but loves going outside every chance he gets. The problem is he runs and runs nonstop until his back legs don’t work.
By constantly ignoring my call and running away from me all afternoon, he, in no uncertain terms, was reminding me of my place. He was sending me a clear message that I was not the boss of him! My role was to let him out, watch him, feed him and make sure he had clean water to drink while his mother was away. The more he disobeyed me, the more irritated I became. And I couldn’t help but be reminded of “The Cosby Show” line my sister so often quotes around her home in reference to the way the boys sometimes act. “I have planted roses, but I’m growing weeds.” And I couldn’t wait to tell her just what I thought of both of her weeds the next time she called to check in.
It was not until later that night that the dog came over to where I was sitting on the couch and jumped up on his hind legs to stare at me. He stood there for seconds, just staring at me before curling up at my feet and sneaking kisses. It was in that moment I knew that despite all his acting out that day that he was grateful for me. They say when a dog stares you in the eyes in a friendly manner, they either want to be fed or they are hugging you. Well, he had already been fed. Eye hug = grateful!
These are just a few examples of everyday expressions of gratitude. They exist in your life. Just step back and look. So accept my challenge. Stop, take notice and don’t miss the simple, yet life-changing ways that the people in your life are expressing their gratefulness to you. And please share your experiences with me!
Andrea Anderson says
Hi Nae, your comment didn’t come through, but I appreciate your reading the article and whatever thoughts you may have had.
Awesome article! Thank you for sharing !
Andrea Anderson says
Thanks Rhonda! I am grateful for your kind words!