Oh Gratitude, Where Art Thou?

Gratitude is a good word. It’s comforting and nice to hear, but quite cumbersome to say. One of those words you have to chew on before you release it from the throat and slide it off your tongue. But – and yes, there’s always the “but” – this term hasn’t necessarily lost its gravitas, but rather, it lost its frequency.

I’ve always been a fan of appreciation. Mainly because true appreciation cannot be contrived. In its very manner, appreciation is based on genuine emotion. If faked, well, it’s not appreciated. And like beauty, love and loyalty, it’s difficult to define appreciation, or why you appreciate something. It’s not really something you can hope to do. You either do or you don’t. Simple enough. Which brings me back to the whole frequency point. Like I argued, since appreciation cannot be prodded and automatic, and now that we have everything we could need at our keyboard-hovering fingertips, appreciation, my dear friend, seems to be waning.

I tend to hear the following more pervasively as of late: “Yeah, it was OK.” “Sure, we had a good night together, but nothing amazing, really.” “Yes, horses are pretty.” The latter doesn’t really apply, and I don’t know why I continue to hear variations of that sentiment, but I do. The point, before I digress once again, is that appreciation levels seem to be dropping. Kind of the opposite of our country’s military spending. We have to keep everything on an even keel, though, don’t we?

Now, I’m not contending that we need to hit some appreciation quota and be done with it all. But since we are brimming with “cool,” “interesting” and “innovative” products, people, music (and so on) everywhere we go, every day, we should remember to search out and enjoy those smaller things that we might once again come to appreciate. For instance, as I type away with my own keyboard-hovering fingertips, I’m enjoying a record. Bon Iver is soothingly ringing out as I listen to a complete album, from beginning to end. And that’s the issue, even something as minor as listening to a record from start to finish, in my experiences, is losing the battle. We have too many “single” songs, that our iPods are packed with a pastiche of bands, which is obviously great, but we are forgetting the whole package. Mainly because we have variety. It’s tough to appreciate something if we are constantly switching over to the next best thing. It’s too rapid.

This is just my proposal to stop, take a look around and enjoy so-and-so. Breath it in. Let it settle like a spinning cup of coffee after a good stirring. But like I said, not something we can just push on ourselves. Appreciation, in its truest form, is organic, unbridled.

Now, to paraphrase my good friend J.T., let’s bring appreciation back.

–RYAN BOLTON

A version of the article originally appeared on Lutherans Connect.

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