The opening scene in “Love Actually” is a great one. As people at an airport embrace each other, Hugh Grant’s voiceover monologue follows, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but its always there…If you look for it, I have a sneaky feeling that you will find that love actually is all around.”
Watching the news (think the affluenza teen in Texas, the latest child celebrity meltdown or cyber bullying) or scrolling through picture perfect Facebook feeds (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/facebook-envy/), you may not catch it, but I have a sneaky feeling that what Hugh Grant said about love is the same for gratitude. Gratitude and the opportunity for gratitude actually is all around.
Thankfulness is a subject I have been thinking a lot about recently in working with two incredible authors, Giacomo Bono and Jeffrey J. Froh, who happen to also be the leading authorities on gratitude amongst young people.
Below, Bono and Froh describe gratefulness in their book, “Making Grateful Kids”;
“Gratitude is the appreciation people feel when somebody has done something kind or helpful for them or when they recognize the good things and people they have in their lives. Gratitude alerts people to the valuable relationships in their lives, it reinforces the kindness of their benefactors, and motivates them to reciprocate kindness to their benefactors or even extend kindness to others.”
The newest member to the A. Larry Ross team, Richard Ross, shot and produced this video to illustrate what kids actually think about gratitude:
By the end of the video, you can see that, surprisingly, kids understand gratitude quite well. Yet, as we grow up, life has a way of creating barriers to gratefulness through kindling feelings of envy, materialism and greed. It’s easy to get sidetracked, but a life oriented towards gratitude is one worth striving for.
According to the authors’ research, “Children who exhibit more gratitude tend to have better social interactions, higher grades and stronger connections to their schools and communities. Furthermore, they partake in less risky behavior, have more goals and plans for the future, and are more generous.”
I can’t think of a more positive endorsement for gratitude. Beyond giving value to others, gratitude helps us focus on what is important in life, making us and those around us feel worthy and loved. As a Christian, the ultimate experience of gratitude is exemplified in our response to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice the cross. Looking at the world around me, I am pretty sure that if I take the time to notice, the opportunities to experience gratitude each day… actually are all around.