Show Your Gratitude
Nobody wants to be an ingrate. In this week's Torah portion we learn about one of the biggest ingrates of all time - the evil king, Pharaoh. Despite the fact that Joseph saved his country from famine, he ungratefully turned Joseph's descendants into his slaves. The Torah way is to show gratitude to those who have done us good.
In our story, a kid gets an eye-opening peek at the power of gratitude.
"Thank you for coming with me tonight. I don't know if I could manage it alone," Linda's grandmother said as the girl helped the frail, elderly woman out of the yellow cab and into the cold, rainy night.
"No problem, Grams," Linda said as the two of them walked toward the entrance of the catering hall. "But I don't understand, since you're feeling so not well, why you need so much to go to this bat mitzvah party? Is this family your best friends or something?"
The older woman just smiled and said, "Speaking of bat mitzvahs, Linda, did you send out thank-you notes for all those beautiful gifts you received for yours last month?"
The girl scrunched up her face uncomfortably. "Um, not really. I know I should, Grams, but it's such a hassle to do - hand writing so many notes - y'know what I mean? Besides, it's been so long that it's really hard for me to put my mind on it..."
Just then, they entered the beautifully decorated hall. Linda expected the hosts to run right up to them. After all, they must be really close friends if her unwell grandmother put in such a huge effort to come. But she was surprised to see that the hostess just gave grandma a faint smile and quick 'hello,' like she hardly even knew her, and then fluttered off to greet other guests.
They sat more or less unnoticed at one of the tables until it was time to leave and walk back out into the rain and dark.
When they finally got back home, Linda couldn't hold back her curiosity any longer.
"Grams, you never told me how you knew those people or why it was so important for you to go there tonight?"
"Well, Linda ... I'll tell you. When I first came to this country about 60 years ago, I was an orphan, all alone in the world. I didn't know anyone here and I was so poor that I owned hardly more than the clothes on my back. One woman - the grandmother of that bat mitzvah girl tonight - took me under her wing and helped me put my life back together."
"I didn't see you talking to any grandmother tonight."
"Well, that's because she passed away more than 20 years ago years ago."
"I don't get it, Grams," Linda said, confused "So why did you bother going?"
"Because even though she's no longer here, I still owe her a debt of gratitude. I make it my business to attend all of her family's happy events as a way of honoring her memory and continuing to say 'thank you' for what she'd done for me."
Linda was blown away. Her grandmother was still putting herself out to say 'thank you' to the family of someone who had done her a favor 60 years ago!!! What an unbelievable sense of gratitude!
"Linda, is everything all right?" her grandmother asked, noticing Linda's faraway look.
"Um, yeah, Grams ... everything's fine. But if you don't mind, I've got to run up to my room and do something very important."
"Yeah - I've got to write and send out all my 'thank-you' notes ASAP!"
Q. How did Linda feel about writing her 'thank-you' notes?
A. She didn't want to put in the effort.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized how important it was to show gratitude.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Linda learned that night?
A. She'd been apathetic about writing thank-you notes, considering it too much effort, but when she saw how much her grandmother put herself out to show gratitude, she realized that it should be a top priority.
Q. Why is it important to show gratitude?
A. Showing and feeling gratitude is the sign of a spiritually sensitive and unselfish person and helps us to realize how much good we have in our lives.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Judaism believes that all the good that comes to a person is ultimately from God. If so, why should we show gratitude to people?
A. For one thing, God chooses good people to be His agents to do good in the world, so we should acknowledge them for their goodness. Furthermore, by developing gratitude toward the people who help us, it gives us the ability to feel grateful to God as well.
Q. Should we demand or expect the people we help to be grateful?
A. While it is certainly good for their character if they are, we should be willing to 'let it go' if they're not. We should do good because it's the right thing to do, without expectations.