The Way I See It : An Attitude of Gratitude
by David Winter (A former Head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC)
I remember as a young student of English listening with fascination to the process by which the bus conductor sold tickets to the passengers. (I should explain, for readers of a younger generation, that once upon a time buses often had a staff of two, a driver who actually steered the vehicle, and a conductor who sold the tickets.)
What intrigued me was the ubiquitous usage of the phrase ‘thank you’. It was ‘thank you’ to let you know that you had to buy a ticket, then ‘thank you’ again as you handed over the fare, and finally a third ‘thank you’ from the passenger on receipt of the ticket and the change. At three ‘thank you’s’ to each transaction, and with perhaps thirty people on the bus, that made no less than ninety ‘thank you’s’ every half hour or so, adding up to nearly six hundred of them in the course of the conductor’s working day. Perhaps as his or her head hit the pillow at night there might be one final ‘thank you’ to mark the close of day.
‘Say thank-you to grandma’, children are told – and learning to say it is part of becoming a nice polite person. ‘It costs nothing to say thank you’, I remember being told. And that’s the problem, really. Saying thank you and actually meaning it are two very different things – a difference we can all detect. True gratitude shows itself in the eye, in the voice, in the body language. It does cost something, because true gratitude actually alters our relationship with the one we thank.
I grew up in an era when many families habitually said ‘grace’ before meals. The same criteria apply. The two longest graces I ever heard were one in Latin at an Oxford college, gabbled so fast that even Vergil would have had a job understanding it, and another at a Christian guest house where a long and rambling grace preceded a meal which was no longer hot. The shortest, incidentally, was ‘Ta, Pa’, a sort of ungracious grace. A genuine grace comes from a grateful heart, which recognises that all we have, including the food on the plate before us, is a gift.
An attitude of gratitude, rather than an assumption of entitlement, is a true conversion of heart. It transforms mere politeness into a genuine blessing. It’s so much more than saying words. It’s actually meaning them.