I learned a deep lesson in gratitude when I was five years old. Our neighbor and her little boy took my mom, brother and me to town. We all were having a nice little day together.
On the way back, my neighbor said to us “Let’s stop and get ice cream.”
And we were all excited. Of course, what five year old doesn’t love ice cream?
So we stopped, and as she handed our little ice cream cones back, she said to me, “Now, say thank you”.
I was floored. I thought “I am NOT going to say thank you. I won’t be told what to do”. [insert five year old scowl here]
You can imagine this, right? Another person, not my mother, telling me what to do. I wasn’t going to have anything of it. If I was grateful, I would say thank you without being told what to do.
“You know”, she said, “if you don’t say thank you, you don’t get ice cream.”
Still standing my ground, I chose not to say thank you.
I didn’t get ice cream that day.
And do you know, I actually felt OK about it. Here I was five years old, with the strong memory of my mother teaching us to say thank you. But at that moment, I would rather go without the ice cream than be told what to do.
I thought about this for years and I realized that gratitude really needed to come from the heart. It doesn’t come from someone making you grateful with a forced “Thank You”. It needs to come from your own heart.
And in that outward movement, there’s a beautiful reciprocity. There’s a beautiful way of coming back as.