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What is Gratitude?

“Who cared? The mother-goat demonstrated her gratitude more than sufficiently. Such moments in one’s life are priceless; an evening’s experience I treasure like an oasis of immense joy and tremendous satisfaction. I felt good.”

(June 30, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) Once while cycling down a lane in my village in Northern Sri Lanka, I saw a mother goat in a state of utter frenzy. She was bleating her head off near a well in an unfenced land with a few coconut trees and grassy patches here and there. The moment the panic-stricken ruminant saw me she rushed to me; it was evident she was pleading for help.

Simultaneously, I heard her kid’s distressed cries from inside the well. Throwing my cycle away, I dashed across to a house in the neighbourhood, fetched a rope and sprinted back to the well; I could have qualified for the Seoul Olympics that evening! In my thinking, with nightfall fast approaching and every moment so precious, there was only one option available to me. Concentrating intensely on the rescue operation, with the right kind of noose and a prayer, the little one was soon out safely with mum. When the owner arrived the kid was getting a feed and a caressing lick from the mother.

The ecstatic mother was all joy on hooves; however, she never forgot me. After licking the kid warm, she came to me with gentle purring sounds that appeared to express her appreciation, nudged at my legs a few times and returned to her kid to give him another potion of fresh lactose. There was intense gratitude in her eyes and rapture in her soft sounds, one among the lesser beings showing emotions we humans hardly credit them with, let alone their roles as our domestic assets.

As for the owner, there was not even a flash of smile or a monosyllabic grunt or groan of gratitude. Have you ever tried relating a story to barefaced granite? He just walked away home dragging the mother and kid. I returned the rope to the neighbour.

Who cared? The mother-goat demonstrated her gratitude more than sufficiently. Such moments in one’s life are priceless; an evening’s experience I treasure like an oasis of immense joy and tremendous satisfaction. I felt good.

Gratitude means a feeling of thankful appreciation for whatever that makes a favourable difference to us. We express this in different ways but to some this is beyond their nature.

They may have the rotten perception that they are doing a favour by availing another the privilege of doing a good turn, a karmic obligation to which they are the beneficiaries. Being grateful is the essence of worship expressed in prayers, chants and songs of praises. Some do this in awe and fear of an eternal being they feel must be propitiated with atonement and sacrifices; some in reverence and others in exultation and bliss, each according to his or her conceptualization of the ultimate reality.

We are all unique persons; never a complete individual. All creations are interdependent; honouring this ideal acknowledges the fullness of life on this planet. The greatest contributions to happiness are close, committed, mutually supportive relationships undefiled by self-centred egotism and intolerance. Even benightedness and fixation of fear forfeited of faith affect affinities; belonging to each other in a spirit of trust and honour is a wonderful experience and blessing. Such relationships are healthy and wholesome.

The tendency to be negative in relationships could lead to dreadful consequences. Folks who fear reaching out to others will only pickle in their own prejudices. They shun relationships that could help develop their finer attributes. Kindness shared spontaneously with such people is taken for granted; gratitude for them is sheer formality sans feelings.

The crafty types exploit the kindness of others. They will sing hosannas but their emotions are shallow; even a mite cannot be drowned in their pretentious teardrops. There are those who believe it is their legacy to be helped and there is no joy to the giver when goodness and generosity are reckoned as mandatory obligations to them.

Life on earth with all its attendant ups and downs is an opportunity for which we must be grateful to our Creator. The mysteries of creation and all the marvels that determine it, the wonders of nature and their sheer spectacles and incredible beauty, the struggles and victories, the joy of good relations, the pangs of pain and the spirit of ecstasies that words cannot describe are all our birthright. We cannot abuse them and immerse ourselves in acidic erosions and destroy life’s potential of so much goodness. Were we not created in the image of God?

(Victor Karunairajan, a journalist with extensive East-West experience has had an exciting career having worked with Anglican, CSI and Catholic institutions, a Buddhist organization and a socialist government in as many as seven countries.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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