Sometimes people say: “I have nothing to be grateful for!” They might be working two poorly paying jobs and still barely making it. They might be in poor health. They might be looking at how rich so many people are, and contrasting it with their own poverty.
These are real and serious concerns. And maybe these concerns are your concerns. If so, you may be right to think that you don’t have much, or even anything, to be grateful FOR. Still, there might be people TO WHOM you are grateful.
Perhaps there’s a co-worker who was willing to exchange shifts so that you could go to the doctor. In the doctor’s waiting room, maybe a stranger offered you a seat, or a receptionist helped you fill out the forms. Maybe your daughter can’t do much to help you financially, but she calls you every day or two to find out how you’re doing, or a friend who helped you clean up the yard or took your dog for a long walk.
If something like this happened, you almost certainly said “Thank you” to the person for their kindness. You weren’t just being polite—you meant it, and maybe you meant or said “Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” Did you also do something nice for that person, when he or she needed help? That’s maybe easy in the case of the co-worker who helped, and might herself need help in the future. And maybe your daughter needs help looking after her young child, and you repay the kindness she shows you by babysitting from time to time. Your friend and you are always doing little things for one another, providing support, being there, doing something nice.
Being grateful TO others, and showing that gratitude by doing something helpful in return, just makes life better by strengthening the connections between you and others. That’s even true when we think about the stranger in the doctor’s waiting room or the helpful receptionist. There may be nothing you can do for those people—you may never see the stranger again. But you can pay it forward. You’re driving home along the freeway still feeling grateful to the stranger for his kindness, and so slow down to let someone merge into your lane. She acknowledges your help with a wave of her hand, and later, still feeling good about what you did, she runs to open the door for someone struggling with a large package. And so, with good feeling, let it continue.
Even if you have little to be grateful FOR, you improve your own life and the lives of those around you by expressing your gratitude TO others for the kindness they show. That’s something we can all do.