A Perspective on Gratitude

Blog Post November 21 Perspective Gratitude no text

I was speaking with my friend the other day about the number of times we’ve heard someone say, “It could have been worse.” when speaking about their pandemic experience. Whether it’s the age of your kids, the nature of your job, or the health of yourself and loved ones during this time, there have been numerous exchanges about why our pandemic experience has been better than it could have been. This recognition has often led families to want to express their gratitude by giving back or by volunteering, channeling their thankfulness into helping others.

My friend and I wondered, “Why do humans need to compare things in order to appreciate them?”

Sometimes, we don’t appreciate our circumstances until we get a window into how it could have otherwise been. There are numerous PJ Library books with this folktale: a father goes to the rabbi to complain that his house is too small and noisy. The rabbi advises bringing in a dog, then chickens, then a goat, and then a cow, with each experience making the house feel smaller and sound louder. The family are at their wits’ end when—finally—the rabbi instructs them to put the animals back outside where they belong. The resulting quiet and space make the family realize their house was just right all along, that it could always be worse.

The Jewish values of hoda’ah (gratitude or being thankful for what we have) and hakarat hatov (recognizing the good around us) speak to this as well. How can your family appreciate your particular circumstances…without bringing farm animals into your home?

As we celebrate thankfulness throughout the month of November, I hope you’ll have conversations with your family about perspective and gratitude. This isn’t just for Thanksgiving—Chanukah starts on November 28th and appreciating the Maccabees’ victory over the Assyrian-Greeks and the subsequent reclaiming of the Temple in Jerusalem are part of the Festival of Lights.

Does your family agree that recognizing differences in experience is necessary to feeling thankful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

With gratitude,
Sarah


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