Every year, without fail, I have some relatives who take the joy out of giving by expressing various forms of ingratitude at the time of receiving my gifts. Most often, they do it simply by minimizing gift-giving and the holidays in general. They do not know how much thought I put into choosing a gift that fits their lives and our budget. They are likely unaware how happy I am while I wrap their gifts, excited to hand them over to their new owners. Whatever their consciousness, my glee balloon is annually deflated a little when I am with them. They are not gracious receivers, and they take the fun out of celebration.
I've lately been tempted to stop giving them anything. Fortunately, my sweet husband reminds me we should continue being who we are despite how other people react. However, even he no longer puts as much thought into the gifts we give these people.
This holiday season, as I was looking at their names on our Christmas list, the thought came to me that I am ungrateful for some of the gifts Heavenly Father has given me. I give my obligatory "thanks" in prayer and in conversation but then complain about some feature that is not to my liking. Take for example, my husband's job. My husband LOVES his job, which puts him in a great mood. (If you have ever had a husband who greatly dislikes their work environment, you know what a blessing it is to have a husband who comes home happy.) My husband's job pays well, has excellent benefits, has made travel possible for us at the price of "almost free", is extremely flexible in that my husband can come home midday for a few hours if I need him, gives him plenty of sick and vacation days, is located close to home, gives my husband a bonus and a raise every year, and places great value on his contributions. My husband's job is an amazing gift in our lives!
Imagine Heavenly Father picking this gift out for me and weighing all its great features and thinking how much we will love all those bells and whistles of this package. When he gives it to us, I say "thanks, we appreciate a job to help provide for us." But do you know what friends hear most from me about this job? "They send him on too many work trips!" I complain, I tantrum, and I pout. (And I pout some more.) Man, what a spoiled brat!
I wonder... What other things do I minimize? Does Heavenly Father sometimes feel like not giving me another gift because I always complain it's not "just right"? Does He feel like giving up much thought in His next gift until I buck up with some sincere thank-you's? I do not know exactly His thoughts, but I do know from experience that *I* am much more excited and put more energy into gifts for people who receive them with kindness, grace, or enthusiasm.
"Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. ...
"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against non is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.
(Doctrine & Covenants 59:7, 21)
This is one of the things I know for sure: We become immediately richer when we are grateful. Ingratitude is an insatiable creature that is appeased only for a moment before being again convinced it is wanting and incomplete.
When I feel unhappy about some circumstance in my life, there are some basic things I have become accustomed to pulling to the forefront of my mind that immediately change my state to contentment:
- Indoor plumbing. I can take a shower any day I want. Indoors! With warm water! Also, I can turn a faucet and - SHAZAM! - there is water to brush my teeth and fill a pot for cooking. I have not one, not two, but three toilets I can choose from to have waste instantly whisked far, far away! It is amazing.
- Temperature-controlled home. There's a working furnace to keep my home warm and windows and walls to keep the snow and wind outside. It is 6°F outside right now and yet, I'm comfortably sitting in my house wearing no socks or shoes on my feet!
- Washer and dryer. I can set my clothes to wash or to dry while I am occupied in some other task or doing nothing at all. No beating shirts on a rock in an icy river for me!
- Soap. I am grateful for soap, to wash my body, my dishes, my clothes. I even have a different "soap" for my hair, another for my face, and yet another for my teeth! How many types of soap can a person have? I am thankful I get a choice.
- Internet. I am grateful for internet that helps me keep in touch with far-away people, have access to resources I would not otherwise even know about, and find desired information in a few clicks and searches. How do you think I know it is 6°F outside?
- Shoes. I have so many shoes! Shoes for walking, for running, for relaxing, and many more for just looking pretty. They all have intact soles, and they are all in my correct size.
- Safety. I live in a safe neighborhood with great neighbors and beautiful surroundings. I am blessed to live in a safe country. Hooray for The United States of America!
- The Priesthood. I tap into this power so often it sometimes drives my husband batty. There is comfort in knowing I can ask for a priesthood blessing whenever I need calming and direction. During a blessing, I always feel like I am a little daughter sitting on Heavenly Father's lap receiving the parenting I need.
Now, that I have made time to reflect on it, I am also grateful for the instances of ingratitude I have encountered because they have helped me pause and recommit to giving thanks daily. I hope, too, your Thanksgiving Day is a renewal in counting your blessings day by day.
"Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed." (Hymns, no. 219, "Because I Have Been Given Much")