Day 6: Gratitude Begets Gratitude

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My friend asked to give voice to my gratitude for three things, once a day for a week. Today I travelled 286 miles with a dog.

As I drove I thought about how much effort went into packing up my son’s dog to take her to Bakersfield. I’m still mad that having a dog in my house was a choice I didn’t make. However, I do like the dog as she has become part of the family. Interestingly, today I noticed that she displays gratitude.

When I talk to her and ask her to do something she typically does it without too much effort. But when I give her a treat for what she did she is very happy and appears to be grateful for the reward. She seems to enjoy the treat as a result of her efforts. She must know she has performed well. I’ve noticed that she will repeat perfect execution of commands if I praise her for her success.

Isn’t that the same with humans? I recall that when I was working I always felt so much more happy and was willing to work even harder when my boss rewarded me for my efforts. Of course in state service rewards often came in the form of acknowledgement of the value of the work, and ultimately, more work. Nevertheless, just knowing I was appreciated allowed me to feel gratitude and a certain sense of weird indebtedness so I worked harder. In turn, those efforts received more gratitude from my boss; like a cycle.

Happily, it works both ways. Subordinate staff when treated well and thanked or rewarded for their efforts continue to work well. Superordinate staff also respond well to gratitude shown them by their employees. The cycle continues.

I am grateful for the loyalty of this dog and she is grateful that I appreciate her efforts to please me.

Now that I’ve said that, I wonder if the gratitude that a dog demonstrates is different than the gratitude that a human demonstrates? And I think it is.

Dogs tend to be described as animals that are fiercely loyal and good companions. Their behavior is such that they demonstrate readily their love and affection for their owner or the people with whom they live regardless of the situation.

To the contrary, humans tend to be grateful for situational occurrences of another’s behavior or in anticipation of another’s behavior. Humans rely on situations to make them happy before they will express gratitude. Human gratitude is not a trait, but situational.

So then why are we all talking about gratitude? I can’t talk about world religions because I have not studied this topic at all however, it appears that many religions teach that gratitude is essential for a happy life. The argument is that if taking things for granted causes us to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have makes us feel we live empty lives, then the converse should also be true. Paying attention to what we do have should help us feel rich with abundance.

Since humans appear to “grow out of” the gratitude trait (I’m convinced babies, like dogs, are born with pure joy and gratitude in their brains. Somehow we train it out of babies.) religions seek to build it back in through training, teachings and FB exercises like this one. Do not get me wrong. I am not complaining about this type of exercise. It is in fact functional to be able to pick out things that we are grateful for in order to help us become conscious of everything that we already have. Indeed it does make our lives seem happier if we take inventory of that which we sometimes fail to acknowledge. I am grateful for reminders to take stock of all the things that make our lives better. Gratitude begets gratitude.

As I sit here trying to write this installment of “Three Things I Am Grateful For” on an iPhone with a huge LifeProof case on it, I have to admit that I am focusing on the fact that my parents don’t even own a computer, much less have Internet access and at the present I’m not very grateful about that. However, I am very grateful that the new iOS8 has a wonderful ability to take dictation.

I hope that those who read this will be happy they did, and in turn feel grateful for the distraction, ….even if just for a few minutes.

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About Caro

I am a social worker by training and a peace officer by profession having worked with California’s delinquent youth and young adults for 28 years. I firmly believe that our development as humans depends on our environment and that sometimes we get stuck. As such, I write about those things we sometimes ignore or fail to see until we are forced to pay attention.
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