An Attitude of Gratitude

jax boardwalk

To be ungrateful is sinful.  It is a failure to repay a moral debt.  There are degrees of ungratefulness. The first degree is to neglect to return a favor.  The second degree is to take no notice of the favor. The lowest degree in ingratitude is to fail even to admit to one’s self that a favor has been given.  We are all familiar with ungrateful people–people who accept favors as if they were theirs by right, people who never thank anyone for favors, and people who never return a favor.  Such people are like sands in the workings of a fine watch.  They grate on other people’s feelings and remove the pleasure from human relationships and love.  Saint Thomas in My Way of Life

Thankfulness is key to my life.  I truly believe that everyone, no matter what their station or situation in life, has something to be thankful for.  We often equate thankfulness to material possessions.  The more “things” that one has the more thankful one should be.  I know that for me it is easy to be thankful when my belly is full and my bank account has money but I have seen many folks in dire situations that are extremely thankful.

We always tried to teach the boys when they were young to say thank you.  The effect of a simple thank you can carry great weight and it always impressed me when we lived in North Carolina how polite children were. They were raised to say thank you.  It was automatic to say “Yes Ma’am” and “No, Sir”.  It was a normal response and to this midwestern girl it was welcomed and I tried to teach our boys to be as polite as possible.

My brother in law, Carlton, is a work in progress just like the rest of us.  Over the years when the health of his folks deteriorated he spent more and more time on his own and one of the results of that was a lessening of some social skills that he had always had.  When we moved in after his dad’s death it was obvious to me that he needed a bit of behavior modification in that area and so I put my social work hat on and tried to transform some of his manners.   Well, we all know how well it works when you try to change someone!  It doesn’t.  But what I wanted was to get Carlton to simply say thank you again.   When he was complimented on how nice he looked he would respond “I know.”.  When someone was nearing a door that needed to be opened he stood back and did nothing.   When he was given a present he would ooh and ahhh but have to be reminded to say thank you.

It is those simple acts that I believe can make a huge difference.  That is why I was so adamant that Carlton should try to remember to do those things again.  As an adult with Down Syndrome he already has enough challenges and I wanted him to be able to appreciate and respond appropriately to situations he might find himself in.  As we watched him open his birthday presents recently over webcams we noticed that that politeness and gratitude is sneaking back into his life once again.  It makes me smile. It makes me very grateful and happy that he has a lot to be thankful for and he realizes it.  Now if we can only get the rest of the world to move towards a heart of gratitude .


  1. I can just picture Carlton opening his presents. You are right a simple thank you makes a huge difference. So is just being nice to others. Too bad so many people seem to miss that point…

  2. This post is a great reminder to all of us to be thankful. Some days it is just too easy to become caught up in the challenges, worries and difficulties.

    Also, I agree that oftentimes those with the least monetary wealth are the happiest and most grateful.

    Bravo to you to help Carlton relearn some basic social skills. Every time I read his name, I smile. His is such a stately name.

    • 🙂 We used to call him Carl but for some reason he has changed to Carlton—-it does sound more stately, doesn’t It???? He takes great pride in his name and it makes me smile when he signs things with his entire name. There is a whole pattern to how he does it—head flip, straightens hair, grips pen, deep concentration and then he writes. It is an art form.

  3. I agree. Saying “Thank You” is a simple way of showing gratitude, but so important. There are so many little things we can do focusing on the good things and doing random acts of kindness are good ways to start. Pay it forward.

  4. I feel the same way and I am a stickler about the kids saying please and thank you. They are pretty good about it but do need reminding here and there.

  5. Amy Prentice says:

    I agree whole heartedly on manners Beth Ann! I was raised by parents from the “old school”! I also enforced the please and thank you with my two youngins’. I love it when I see Seth run up to a door to open for someone……I know he’s 26 but I feel that he had a mom and dad that gave him a good background! I think the world is lacking in the manner department! Also, a smile goes a long way with those manners too:) So good to hear that Carlton has had such a wonderful family to guide him!

    • I KNOW that you raised your kids that way, too! I had to laugh one time Aaron told me he was walking with a girl and moved so he would be on the street side—something I guess we taught him—-and the girl had no clue why he had changed sides and asked him about it. It is just little things like that that make a huge difference—like Seth running to open a door. Love it!

  6. I don’t think that there is anything that is more irritating to me than not hearing a simple “thank you” from someone, after holding the door for them. I often say out loud (maybe a bit too loud) “YOU’RE WELCOME” usually it is ignored or gets me a “look”. But it’s worth it. Although I must say, that those people are in a very small minority, as most people acknowledge my effort. Carlton just needed a bit of reminding. But you have to love his self-confidence to say “I know” when told how nice he looks. lol

    • Yes—it has become my go to line these days if Chris compliments me. 🙂 It is good to hear that you think the majority of folks are appreciative. I agree. I think it just slips folks minds in their busy preoccupied worlds. I am going to be having more “Carlton” stories as I am picking him up next week to bring him back to Iowa to stay for a couple of weeks. I am sure there will be stories……

  7. What a wonderful gift you are giving Carlton. I don’t care how many years of education you have or how full your bank account is if you do not have good manners you are stuck…why parents would put their kids at this kind of disadvantage I will never understand. When Mom’s tell me their kids don’t say Thank you after a meal they have fixed, I cringe. Often they are hurt by it, but still won’t ask for the simple courtesy of being acknowledged for providing a meal. Cole was taught to take a “Thank you bite” from the time he held a spoon. No you don’t have to like it, no you don’t have to eat more than a “taste.” But darn it you do have to be Thankful for all the energy from God down that went into providing that morsel.” He will still say, “Just a thank you bite, please.” Of-course we have all lapses just like Carlton, but isn’t it lucky he has someone to help him remember! When I was visting my Mom, I left my napkin on the table and she looked at me and smiled, and said “I do hope my grandson puts HIS napkin in his lap.” I got it. 😀

    • Your mom is precious!!! I love that story. I was raised to be polite but not overly so if that makes any sense. I think it is a small gift we can give one another to just be appreciative and it can certainly turn the tone of my day around when someone appreciates me so why would it not work the other way around?? So I ere on being polite and thankful (most times). I love the Thank you bite—–I wish I had thought of that!!!

  8. All of us need reminding. I was raised to always say thank you. When I lived in Boston I went to a sandwich shop. Each time I was asked if I wanted lettuce or something I would either say “yes, thank you” or “no, thank you.” finally the person said, you aren’t from here are you? It made me sad. I found after a few years in the city I started to stop saying thank you. I had to retrain myself.

    • It is interesting how often a simple thank you makes a huge difference. I cringe when folks are rude, especially to waiters/ waitresses. It just takes a little thank you to change the tone of service sometimes and show some appreciation!

  9. I remember one time when you and I went shopping when you were quite young. You opened the door for a woman that was going into the store. She was so plealsed that you had done that and thanked you. You have been a thoughful and thankful person and I really love you for that.

  10. Like you I dearly wish more people could be grateful for what they have or are given.

    • I think there are those that are truly grateful but a lot of folks just really don’t get it in my humble opinion. I could be wrong but it certainly does not hurt to say thank you more often, does it?

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