I’ve written about gratitude for years. I’ve discussed (harangued you with?) the myriad ways to express gratitude, be it in affirmations spoken upon rising for the day and then again before retiring or in creating sacred space in meditation. I’ve talked about keeping a gratitude journal and have one myself. As I’ve said, there’s much to value in how gratitude enhances our lives. The value has only magnified as I’ve gotten older.

Is our current expression of gratitude its fullest acknowledgment?

Most current expressions of gratitude have to do with ourselves — and only ourselves. These expressions don’t impact the people who might truly be responsible for your bounty. Take, for instance, the gratitude we share at Thanksgiving dinner. Do we ever think about the back-breaking work of raising or growing the food for the meal … the preparation and processing for shipping, storage, making and keeping safe this food and then displaying it for our perusal? I don’t think about what it takes to serve me — at a restaurant, dentist office, or library. That service just happens:   I’m happy, I say I’m happy, and that’s as far as it goes. I am wondering now if that is the fullest expression of gratitude. It might be a little bit of a ruse to only say we’re grateful without letting the broader community benefit from our bounty.

I’m still deep in the learning curve. 

Before you get your hackles up, I’m not pointing an “ungrateful” finger at you. Until lately, I’ve felt completely satisfied that I’m doing everything I can to articulate my gratitude for all the abundance in my life. After all, I tip large when I can, I say “thank you” for good service, and I express appreciation when someone goes above and beyond. Aren’t these all genuine ways to share the gratitude in my life?

Aha, you counter, these are indeed excellent ways. But most expressions are centered only on the self and the “goodness” of my acknowledgement and appreciation. The purpose of this blog is to suggest we all could do more.

Let’s get down and dirty for a moment. Just think:  Would it be a truer expression of gratitude to actually do something about the things you feel grateful for? If yes, what does that “doing” really look like? Does it always involve money? It does not.

Suggestions for showing gratitude

I’ve got some ideas for ways to show your gratitude. Keep in mind not all are appropriate for every situation. You’re not going to hug your waiter when they do a really good job for you. A larger than normal tip is probably what they’d like, if you are able.

For people who are your friends, you might want to look sincerely and lovingly into their eyes and tell them just how much you appreciate their actions. You can embrace them, if they’d like that, or do something for them or give them a small gift you know they’d like. It might surprise you, but a great way to show gratitude is to let others talk, listening intently and without complaining. Who doesn’t glow under genuine compliments?

For people you don’t know personally, write a letter of praise on their behalf. Bosses want to know when their employees are doing good work. Also, the next time you’re being waited on, try being extremely patient in giving your order, and make eye contact! I’ve been guilty of shotgunning off my order without so much as a glance in the server’s direction, which is totally dehumanizing. I like the thought of paying it forward, you know, like paying the bridge toll for the person behind you — and yet it’s something I’ve never done.

Lastly, don’t forget to show gratitude for yourself. After all, you’ve done lots of good things for others and for the community at large. Make a list of all that you’ve done lately. Schedule a date with yourself or pen a love letter to you. Do something nice for yourself. Treat yourself to that thing or experience you’ve been putting off.

Think about it.

How enlightened is your practice of gratitude? Personally, I’ve got a ways to go before its expression is felt by those who actually created it. But, this is the beginning, and I’m on the outlook for the next experience that will let me do more than just talk about how grateful I am. I think that those of us with a roof over our heads and three meals a day owe it to make the effort to do more than send a mental thank you.