The poets and philosophers have long praised gratitude as one of the most desirable attribute. Many folktales about gratitude send a message that if you treat others well, your kindness will be returned to you. Hear me out, being grateful is not the same as being thankful. Being grateful comes from a deeper place that only knows how the story could end entirely different, and often does.

One of the most famous folktale is Alsop’s “Androcles and the Lion”. In this story, an escaped slave named Androcles stumbles upon a lion in the forest. The lion is in great pain and Androcles discovers he has a large thorn stuck in his paw, he carefully removes it. Later, both are captured and Androcles “is to be thrown to the lions”. Even though the lion is ravenous, he merely licks his friends’ hand in greeting. The Emperor, astonished, sets them both free.

Though good deeds are rewarded in folktales, gratitude is not an entitlement. Recipients sometimes have to follow certain rules and not take gratitude for granted.

A folktale magnificently written, from Japan called “The Grateful Crane”, starts where a poor farmer comes across a crane that has been shot by an arrow. The farmer gently removes the arrow and the crane flies away. Later, a beautiful woman becomes the farmer’s wife. When the rice harvest fails and they face starvation, she secretly weaves a magnificent fabric they can sell, but she forbids him to ever watch her weave. (Do you see where this is going?) Curiosity gets the best of him, and he peeks at her while she worked and discovers that she is the crane he saved. She leaves and he returns to penury. In some interpretation, he is punished not with poverty, but with loneliness. Fables and stories about gratitude make a big difference in your life and world alike.

To keep in appreciation for what you have, you have to think about “King Midas and the Golden Touch”. This is a cautionary tale about greed. King Midas believes he can never have too much gold, but once his food and his daughter have suffered from his alchemy, he realizes he was wrong all along. The King doesn’t realize what’s truly important to him until he’s lost it all. Once he has rid himself of the golden touch, he appreciates not only his daughter, but is also grateful for the simple treasures of life like shelter, water, bread and butter.

Interestingly, every good deed is perfectly reciprocated. We can’t go wrong with gratitude whether we experience it ourselves or receive it from other people. It’s strength can be of great benefit to us, we’d all be better if we were kind and appreciated what we hold. Appreciation comes when you feel grateful from the depths of your heart. The head keeps an account of all the goodness you give and receive, but the heart records the appreciation, humility and generosity that one feels when someone showers you with kindness…Gratitude…

Gratitude doesn’t walk through the front door all dressed up bringing pies, rather it slips through the door into your life like a car needing repairs, an unexpected medical diagnosis, clogged pipes, power outages or a catastrophic accident. Forget what you’ve heard about the anxiety of being without, dealing with or missing these, you never know what gratitude is until the flickering of returning power, being able to flush your toilet finally, getting your car back after too long a stay in the garage can return to you in your daily grind…Gratitude…

Gratitude is surviving the worst things you can imagine, so awful you’d trade it in a heartbeat. Gratitude helps you cheer the good news of impending health, it helps you to be thankful when you no longer suffer pain to some point. It’s also uprooting and moving to an unknown destination with a plan to rebuild and when the plan doesn’t pan out, no money or prospect of a job, you make the most of it redirecting your energy for survival…Gratitude…

Jean Baptiste Massieu, the famous deaf educator, made a statement that is now considered a French proverb: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” He further explains “that gratitude implies a sense of personal liberalization on learning the value of what’s important in life.” Gratitude should be felt and experienced sincerely, expressed generously and received graciously.

Thanksgiving like every Thanksgiving, of course, we hold hands and express what we are thankful for. Just like all previous years, they were all thankful for the same things: food, family and friends. Each spoke with their “heads”, not with their “hearts”, not even grateful for one second, thinking perhaps that the people at this table might not be there forever or not even being grateful for the gifts of their life, wisdom and courage to still learn from them. STOP! STOP, STOP! They failed to grasp the essence! Gratitude is the feeling in your heart, it’s not the same as giving thanks or being thankful which comes from the head…Gratitude…

Some would say gratitude is thanking the lucky stars for having been born into that family and world created around you. So many of us can think of thankful thoughts and say appreciate things, but how many of us genuinely feel a deep well of gratitude? If you aren’t grateful for what you have, it’s unlikely you’ll even be thankful for what you’re going to get in life. Surely each and everyone of us have much to be thankful for, but why not express gratitude? It cost nothing. Hmm…Gratitude…Getting to the heart of gratitude is work for some. Gratitude is how one person shows how something very little makes a difference for you, something that makes your heart explode, warms you inside, reminds you of what truly matters in life, feeling powerless for a moment while your heart soaks up that feeling. Gratitude is warm spring days, wildflowers, rainbows, beautiful trees, gifts from nature. Gratitude is memory full of happiness, being thankful for all of them. MaMa’s gratitude is sitting in the forest listening to the sounds, snow coming down like diamonds, sunsets over looking a mountain top, the summer breeze, solitude to reflect…It’s easy to get caught up and take for granted the things that are important to us…Gratitude…

Gratitude measures value, friendship, respect, appreciation, it delights and lifts your soul. It’s the key component to happiness. Consider gratitude a virtue, it’s so unique that our species do not know how to manage savoring the emotional and physical gifts of life or appreciate what they have, focus on strengths, spend time with loved ones and invest in relationships which promotes self-gratitude. It’s an appreciation of positive attitudes, love, compassion that give a “warm-glow” feeling. It’s the power of the heart and wisdom, not the head part of the brain that still has a long road to understanding happiness.

Gratitude unlocks fullness of life. It is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Make a list of each day’s joys, the moments you failed to appreciate, be humble, be thankful, do what is right, be grateful, value simple things, embrace people and events with gratitude, cultivate gratitude because people and events around you aren’t the problem, your stories are…Your service promotes gratitude, reach out to others, share your hard earned insights and resources that make you aware of the blessings in the life you had forgotten and took for granted… Gratitude…As you sit at your table, know you have put much effort in preparing your meal for everyone to enjoy. There isn’t much I can give you right now but to tell you how grateful I am to be able to share my thoughts and recipes with you each and every time you allow me. Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Turkeying!

As always I am here for your love, comments and ideas. [email protected] And the final words, a combined gift~As gratitude is a memory stored in the heart not the mind, know that you have been gifted 86,400 seconds today-Have you said Thank You?~Dr. Wm. Arthur Ward

Inspiration Credits to: Henry W. Beecher, Melodie Beattie, Frank A. Clark, Lionel Hampton, Michael Josephson. John F. Kennedy, Lyrics from Joni Mitchel’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, The Secret Book by Rhonda Byrne. Fairy Tales of Old Japan, Wm E. Griffis, Folklore and Mythology, D.L. Ashliman, Folktales of Native Americans, The Uni. Of Penn. Library.

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