Be Thankful AND Show Your Gratitude

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Don’t just be thankful–for family, good food, and a roof over your head–be grateful.

According to The Oxford Dictionary, thankfulness is a feeling, while gratefulness is a form of expression. Thankfulness implies a state of being, like being in a state of appreciation. Gratefulness means showing your appreciation for someone or something done or received. It is an action.

I was very young when I celebrated my first Thanksgiving with my parents. It’s an uncommon holiday to celebrate in Singapore, but my family picked up the tradition after my aunt married a Westerner. While Mummy made sure the meat dishes were marinated and cooked well, Dad would toss the salad, serve the chips, and arrange the table spread. All through middle and high school, I never failed to show up right on the “ding” of the oven. I would eat, linger around for some dessert, then retreat back upstairs to my safe haven. Last week, as I sat munching on a turkey leg, careful to keep the golden oil from dripping onto my jeans, it suddenly hits me that I am no longer a child.

I recall the sight of Mummy stirring some hot soup in a pot, Dad pouring out the chips, and I being extremely reluctant to help set the table. Eventually, the food was served—a scrumptious American Chinese fusion. There I sat with my fingers greasy from the turkey thigh and tummy overflowing with potstickers. I could hardly believe my good fortune. I’ll admit that I let this moment of bliss, ignorance, and enjoyment define me. I spent Thanksgiving Day on my own terms, relishing this meal I did not prepare. Would I have realized the extent of my selfishness had I not just been served a plate full of delights I did not deserve? Maybe? Possibly, but most likely, no.

It’s funny how it takes us such a long time to realize our many flaws and blessings. I know there are many of us who don’t dwell on how fortunate we are to have the things we have. My traditional and particularly conservative grandmother would always mumble under her breath that “kids these days always take things for granted!” Growing up, my grandmother did not have access to all the information and goods that I did. She may have been cherry picking a little, but her statement rings true.

There is a woman who sweeps the road in my neighborhood. She sweeps leaves for a solid hour on my street, before moving onto the next. Sometimes, I’d hand her a soda, and her one response would be to thank me profusely for the “kind thought.” I’m only beginning to realize that along with her thankfulness, she continues to clean the sidewalks out of gratitude.

I wish I wasn’t such a brat. I should have helped with the dishes, babysat the kids, tossed the salad, at least. I should have offered my help, because in the grand scheme of things, straight A’s, group projects, and all the minute excuses we make to avoid our responsibilities don’t matter.

Being grateful is an attitude, and showing gratitude is reflected in our actions. Gratitude is a decision you make to tell someone how much they mean to you. Gratitude is tipping your barista a little more, as you realize your own financial capabilities and see that you can help someone out. Gratitude is serving our family and friends out of conscious discipline. Unlike thankfulness, showing gratitude demands thought. It is a different experience that I bet feels twice as fulfilling.

Despite our setbacks, we can only move forward from here. The key to developing an attitude of gratitude is through reflection and application. We should reflect on our blessings and show our appreciation. At the end of the day, it’s the little things that count.

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