As compared with most of the world, U.S. citizens are rich, but to what extent are we happy? We’re taught less to express gratitude, than to strive, perpetually seeking the next thing. Surely that will “make us happy”, except that then we’ll be preoccupied the next goal. Meanwhile we’re anxious that bad people will steal, ruin, or misappropriate our possessions, or that we haven’t bought the right thing.
Our founding document speaks of happiness as something to be pursued. We chase after “it.” So the idea of gratitude is an unclaimed orphan in U.S. culture. Why would be risk halting the “pursuit” in order to celebrate what we have? (If you click this link, then scroll down to “gratitude.”)
It is minority voices that suggest we should live not only in the endless future but in the present, that we notice what is good in the only time we can ever live in, the now. Without reference to striving, these voices tell us that if we neglect the present, we throw away a treasure.
I thought of this when friends told my wife and me about their daily practice of gratitude. Every evening in notebooks they describe things they are grateful for, then read each other what they’ve written. Getting ready for a possible move, they’re giving up various things, but they don’t want to discard these notebooks. Why do they read them aloud? Because being witnessed deepens their commitment.
Craig K. Comstock, Contributor - author, TV host, social commentator, former foundation director