Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. In gratitude we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that others have given us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve much good in our lives. So writes Robert Emmons, a leading expert on gratitude (cf. Why Gratitude is Good).
As we reflect on this, our memories bring back so many sources of gratitude: the grace and love of God; the love and devotion of parents; the kindness of friends; the beauty of nature; and, in this context of today’s newsletter, the service and sacrifice of this nation’s veterans.
And what is so amazing about these sources of gratitude is that many of us have done so little to deserve what we have been given so generously. In reality, many of us may have contributed to doing or not doing things that would justify being stripped of the things we have been given.
Sadly, we are now experiencing situations in our great, God-blessed nation that tend to devalue the importance of gratitude and the recollection of what brought to us tremendous blessings. There are so many reminders in our nation today that are designed to bring our attention to the need for gratitude – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and yes, Veteran’s Day.
In the words of James Hankins, “Schools teach, or used to teach, American history in order to inculcate patriotism,…Our cities display, or used to display, statues of our great leaders to remind us of what we owe them and to encourage us to similar virtue” (First Things, “Pietas,” p. 42). Hankins goes on to cite other reminders, such as, public prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance, sacred symbols, etc.
As we reflect on these thoughts, it must be a corrupt society that allows displays of ingratitude for the unearned benefits we have received from the sacrifice of others. How have we allowed the sad and shameful decline of gratitude to become displayed by so many within our society today?
Let us personally use the upcoming Veteran’s Day as a beginning point in a renewed effort to reveal appreciation and gratitude for those who have given us so much. As we voice our gratitude, we must not forget that the highest expression of gratitude is not found in words such as “Thank you for your service,” but in honoring the nation and
its people for whom these veterans sacrificed. --Dr. Tom Seals