Without Gratitude Do We Have Anything?

We’ve made it to the end of November, but before we closeout the month, I wanted to mention that November is National Gratitude Month.

I haven’t written much about gratitude on this blog during November, despite writing everyday. However, a fellow ChicagoNow blogger, You Know Neen, devoted the entire month to gratitude. Every single day she published a post about gratitude written by her or one of a number of guest bloggers. It has provided a respite from a very worrisome and mean month.

But while thinking about gratitude, I thought it might be helpful to summarize what it is. The Oxford English Dictionary says that it’s “The quality or condition of being grateful.” I suppose that’s the essence in its simplest form, but as evidenced by the bloggers in You Know Neen’s series, that gratefulness can express itself in a variety of ways.

I always try to be grateful, and take the time to think about how lucky I am, and the things in my life that make me happy. But it recently occurred to me that perhaps the best way to appreciate gratitude is to think about what life would be like without it.

So, without gratitude:

My daughter’s laugh wouldn’t make me smile.

Who would appreciate the scent of freshly-cut grass?

What about blue skies? Or puffy cumulus clouds?

Pizza Fridays wouldn’t be so exciting. Neither would dollar shake Wednesdays.

We wouldn’t look forward to three-day weekends.

High speed internet would be just as good as dial-up. Margarine as good as butter.

Photographs would just be colors on paper. So would paintings.

Tragedy wouldn’t exist, so I guess that’s something positive. But neither would comedy. And that’s no good.

The smell of a newspaper, the song of a mourning dove, the release of a good, first-thing-in-the-morning stretch. Sugar. No gratitude, no meaning.

Bad things would just be bad. Winter would just be cold and sucky because we wouldn’t be grateful for sledding, and snowmen, and hot chocolate, and cuddling, and a nice warm blanket.

We’d definitely live shorter lives because no one would exercise since the runner’s high would mean nothing. Neither would post-workout soreness, better fitting clothes, or having a Dove ice cream bar after dinner.

Or maybe we’d have longer lives since beer and wine would just be liquids, and chocolate chip cookies would be just another smell.

We’d have more free time, since we’d have no hobbies. But we wouldn’t care about free time. And we wouldn’t care about hobbies. Without gratitude, maybe we’d still read, but would we go for a bike ride, or do woodworking, or make quilts, or collect stamps?

Say goodbye to the economy, too. Without gratitude who needs the newest gadget, a fancy car, nice furniture, or stylish clothes? You might as well skip the washing machine, too, since there’s no gratitude for the extra time you save by not having to wash clothes by hand.

Sorry, Hollywood, you can shut down. We don’t need you. Nothing you do means anything because nothing means anything. Who needs a good story, interesting characters, or just pure escapism for a couple of hours? Not Gratitude-Free Me, that’s for sure!

In fact, the more I think about it, the less I need. You, Devoted Reader, can leave. Not only do I not need you to read these words, but I don’t need you at all. It’s not like you add anything to my life. You might as well go. I’ll take it from here. All by myself.

But don’t think that having time to myself will mean anything, because it won’t. By myself, with someone, in a crowd, whatever. A world without gratitude doesn’t care.

It’s all the same. It’s all…nothing.

And if you still think gratitude’s not important, then think even more primal. Try being indifferent about food or water. Oxygen.

Gratitude is easy to overlook. Many of us probably don’t take the time to think about the things in our lives for which we should be grateful. But, to quote the ancient suburban philosopher, Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

But don’t just look at it. Think about it. And then remember why you should be grateful.

Your future—the future of everything—depends on it.

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