Grasping gratitude

Grasping gratitude

According to legend, a young man roaming the desert once came across a spring of delicious crystal clear water. He tasted the water and found it very sweet to drink. Wanting to take some for a tribal elder who had been his teacher, he filled some water in his leather container.

After a four-day journey, he presented the water affectionately to the old man. The elderly man took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student profusely for the thoughtful gesture. The young man returned to his village with a contended heart, having honoured his teacher with a taste of the sweet water.

Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. The youngster immediately spat it out as the water had become stale because of the old leather container. The student asked, “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?”

The teacher was quick to reply, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving kindness and nothing could be sweeter. Heartfelt gifts deserve the return gift of gratitude.”

This is a simple, yet heartwarming story. A generic term to mean gratefulness, the idea of gratitude goes deeper, and grasping its quintessence takes not just the mind but the heart as well.

A rush of inexplicable emotion when we are at the receiving end of a gift, an honour or just plain sympathy or affection generates gratefulness. It nudges us to feel indebted to someone’s generosity, kindness and warmth that we have experienced and have been better for it. It promotes feelings of obligation. True gratitude is thus always succeeded by a desire to reciprocate and respond with words and actions expressing appreciation. 

Grasping gratitude, thus, involves humility. If we believe we are owed something, we will not be thankful for it because we think we are entitled to it. Gratitude begins where our sense of entitlement ends. It sets into motion an awareness of our endowments and prompts us to be benefactors of kindness, infusing freshness to the stale water of human arrogance.