“Life’s been so good to me, has it been good to you? Has it been everything you expected it to be?”
Danny Elfman sang those lyrics years ago in a song called “Gratitude” when he was still making freaky, funky music with Oingo Boingo. Now he makes freaky mood music for TV and films, lending his voice and style to countless movies and characters, most notably as a certain skeleton who aspires to commandeer Christmas. (What Elfman is actually discussing in the song is up for interpretation, like all art, but it doesn’t matter. Just as it doesn’t matter that hardly anyone knows who or what an Oingo Boingo is or was!)
“What’s the point?” you ask.
Gratitude is a concept that we neglect, I think. We pay lip service to it by being gracious and saying thank you at the socially appropriate times. We badger our children to say thank you at every turn, hoping that somehow, just by uttering the words, our spawn will magically transform into the socially adjusted saints that we envision. A simple math equation that equals them blossoming into full-fledged adults who think of others and do great things, while simultaneously remembering to be grateful at all the right times.
Without having to be reminded.
But what about us? What about the muddling masses of adults who make superior pronouncements to their children about thanking Aunt Ingrid for the Justin Bieber t-shirt they received on their birthday, but forget to say thanks or even acknowledge the fast-food employee who hands their order out the window at the drive-thru?
We could do better. I could do better.
We have innumerable opportunities every day to express real gratitude, not just for the material things we’ve been given, but for the time spent, the joy shared, and the inspiration we get from each other. When was the last time you told a peer, a co-worker, a friend, that you dig what they do and how they do it? How often do we let a moment pass where we could build up a fellow human and let them know how much their actions mean, and thus bring us all a little closer? I don’t mean empty platitudes and “free to be you and me” cheerleading. I mean actual, earnest, respect. Be grateful for the humor someone shares with you. Be gracious in seeing the efforts others make in the world. Recognize the hard work someone is putting into their job, whatever it may be.
Good work, done well is it’s own reward, (someone said that, right?), but being valued is just as important. Small things matter, even when the big ideas are what gets the press.
I grew up in an era where trophies were handed out for participation. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating for the “there are no losers here” perspective. There are no trophies for participation in life. There will be losers. (And at the very end we all lose anyway.) That’s why expressing how grateful we are for someone else is so vital. The universe is one unkind, cruel and unusual motherf…, um, place. We have been given a mind and a soul that is capable of greatness. We should use our powers to lift one another up, not tear them down, or worse treat others like they don’t even exist.
There’s a reason excommunication and banishment were so feared in days of old and there’s a reason teenagers are so adept at using The Silent Treatment as a weapon. It is devastating. Death is almost preferable.
I choose to acknowledge my fellow humans. I will try harder. It is too easy for us to let these little things fall by the wayside. They may not seem like the most important topics, but maybe they are. Maybe simple stuff like being actually grateful for someone’s efforts and looking them in the eye and expressing it is more important than anything else. We’ll never know unless we try.
Thank you for taking time out of what you were doing to read this. I appreciate you!