As I’ve mentioned before, I like to think that I’m relatively thoughtful. I was raised with a spirit of appreciation. I used to be thankful even for the smallest gesture, touched that someone thought enough of me to offer me a gift or do something for me. But I have recently realised that an important part of my respect for others has taken a downward turn… my capacity for gratitude just isn’t what it once was.
Somewhere along the line, the all-too-common trap of expectations has crept in. Let’s take yesterday as an example. On a visit to a theme park on a hot summer’s day, my boyfriend offered to stand in line for an ice block (or ice lolly or icy pole or popsicle depending on where in the world you come from) whilst I went to the toilet. It was a kind offer, made out of love.
But the toilets weren’t actually where they were marked on the map and I had to go find some others. I called him to let him know and ask him to hold off on my icy treat. But the place was noisy, the line was poor and he didn’t understand a word I said. So he went ahead and bought my little present.
In my annoyance and frustration at a) not finding the bathrooms (I am a woman who prides herself on her ability to read a map!), b) not being understood (after having spent a great deal of time being not understood in my non-native language, I’m a bit sensitive on this point) and let’s face it c) a good old-fashioned dose of tiredness induced by trying to keep up with the energetic little niece-in-laws, my catastrophising instinct kicked in. I ended up so focused on the fact that my long-awaited ice block would be melted away into nothing before I’d even put lips to it that my gratitude somehow got lost.
By the time I arrived back to my boyfriend, all I had to offer him was a scowly face and a “It’ll be melted before I even get to eat it now”. Hang on a minute… just when did I become so difficult to please??? I’m sure what I really meant to say was “Thank you darling, it was sweet of you to buy me a treat, especially when you weren’t buying anything for yourself at the same time AND you had to stand in the hot sun and wait.”
My spoiled brat routine wasn’t appreciated in the slightest by my boyfriend and rightly so. He promptly decided to treat me as the child I was being, and announced that if I didn’t want it he would throw it in the bin. A good call that promptly snapped me out of my immature headspace and brought me back to planet adult. And not before time.
We often give believing that we expect nothing in return. But rarely is this true. What most of us want in return for any gift, be it of time, material possessions, services rendered or any combination thereof, is recognition of our actions in the form of gratitude. When someone gives and feels that their gesture wasn’t appreciated, they are less likely to give in the future. And let’s face it, in a world that seems to be hurtling towards ever-increasing selfishness at a scarily rapid rate, the last thing we need is for the giving of gifts where the only required return is a little bit of gratitude to die out.
So how on earth did my first-world expectations of being able to readily find toilets, having a phone service that works perfectly and a functioning freezer handy at all times to keep my ice block nicely frozen come to over-ride the recognition of a simple kindness shown to me by the man I love? The simple answer is, I don’t know. But I sincerely hope that I heed the wake-up call and remember the next time I am given a gift, no matter how small, that a little thank you goes a long way.