There are not many disciplines that come easily to me, but gratitude is actually one of them. Perhaps it helps to be optimistic, or it helps that I have so many amazing people in my life. People who have built me up, encouraged me, and taken chances on me. I have so much to be thankful for, and when I catch myself complaining, I think of it as an instance of incredible entitlement.
I don’t feel like I deserve anything I have – and that’s not in a self-demeaning way. I know that the fact that I am healthy, wealthy, and wise (to use a cliché) is only by chance or more likely by God’s grace. It also means that what I have, I want to share with others, and I think this is a natural outcome of gratitude. I don’t believe that I earned anything I have, so I don’t need to hold on to anything I don’t need. I can give it away, because it wasn’t really mine to begin with.
One of my favourite cafés is 541 on Barton Street in Hamilton. It has a bright, open atmosphere, good food, and friendly staff. If you go to 541, you’ll see instead of a tip jar, they have a jar full of buttons, so when you tip a dollar on your coffee or sandwich, one button gets put in the jar. Then someone else can pay for their food or drink using buttons from the button jar. Last time I was at 541, it made me think about how reticent I am toward receiving kindness, either from a fear of obligation, or from a desire to be self-sufficient. We love to quote Jesus saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive” and I truly believe this, but I’ve come to believe that giving and receiving are not the opposites. Well, for one thing, if I tried to give you a cookie, and instead of taking it, you offered me a muffin, which I also refused to take, then it would be a standoff, and neither of us would have given anything. Thus, you and I would both be robbed of a blessing.
No, the opposite of giving is not receiving. Receiving what others give is what makes generosity possible. The opposite of generosity is ingratitude.