One of the finest qualities of being human

"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
— Albert Schweitzer

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude."
— Alfred North Whitehead


Gratitude for everything, large and small, is the primary secret to happiness. From the moment you wake up until you turn out the light, be aware of the many things you have to grateful for and it will transform your life.

In 2010, I wrote in my blog that when I am about to eat breakfast that I gave thanks for whatever I am eating that day and for the people who made that possible. For example, if I were having oatmeal out of a package of instant oats, my thanks would go something like this:

I am grateful for the farmer who grew the oats, the people who designed the tractor with which he harvested the oats, the person who drove the truck to the factory where the oats were processed, the mechanic who oiled the machine so it would work effectively, the accountant who wrote a check to that person so he would get paid for his labors, the person who designed the package so it would be one that I would choose, the clerk who stacked the shelf on which I found it, the clerk who sold me the tea kettle in which I boiled the water for the cereal, the person who supports her by being a friend or partner, the store that employees her, the accountant at that store who sees that she gets paid, and so on.

As your gratitude expands beyond the immediate help or blessing you have been given, you will recognize that every person who helps you in some way is supported by a widening circle of people that extends around the globe. You need all of them and they need you as well.

Therefore, after writing the prayer of thanks above, I suggested my blog readers begin each day with gratitude to people they don’t know personally.

These people are ones for whom I am grateful not because they do something for me directly, but because they support those on whom I rely for everything I need in life. Here are some examples:

I give thanks for the people who support those who test the medicine I take for my aches and pains.

I give thanks for the people who support the farmers who grow the wheat that becomes part of my breakfast.

I give thanks for the people who support the people who made the knife with which I can cut a banana to eat on my cereal.

I give thanks for the people who support the journalists who put themselves in harm’s way to bring me news I need to know about areas of the world that are in conflict.

I give thanks for the people who support the flaky Hollywood impersonator street performers who bring a smile to the face of those who pass.

I give thanks for the people who support the teachers who teach in places where they face opposition for educating children.

I give thanks for the people who support the people who manufacture containers for my milk and orange juice.

I give thanks for the people who support the people who acknowledge alcohol and drug abuse and take steps to overcome their addictions.

I believe that if you were to give thanks for all the people who support the people you need—and then be thankful for the people who support them— your thanks would circle the globe.

Exploring GRATITUDE in Your Life

What does gratitude mean to you?

We all forget to say “thank you” now and then, perhaps distracted by what we need to do next or don’t realize the person we needed to thank has left. However, it is never too late to express our gratitude for the efforts of others. What thanks do you owe to others that would still be appreciated, though much time has passed?

There are many ways to express gratitude, from a simple “thanks” at the end of an evening with friends, to a phone call the next day, to a hand-written note, to a gift, to an email, etc. To what extend do you find yourself judging a person’s gratitude based on the amount of effort it took to express their thanks?

What symbol best represents gratitude—something that can remind you of this important quality when you notice that your life is improved by the effort of someone else.

This exploration of gratitude was created by Arlene Harder, MA, MFT, resident of Villa Gardens, a Front Porch Retirement Community in Pasadena, California. The material is not copyrighted and may be used with attribution. (Photo on Dreamstime by Antonel.)