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Thoughts on Gratitude and Greed

Monday, December 03, 2012

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude as a result of an incident yesterday, and I thought I'd put down a few of my musings, as a way to help me think things through.

Yesterday my son and I went to Mass, and were told there was an Angel Tree in the narthex. Which means that needy people's names, ages, and gift wishes are written on a small construction-paper angel, which is hung on a tree. The idea is that church parishioners, who are presumably much better off than the needy people, will each take an angel or two, purchase the gifts requested, and return them to the church, wrapped and decorated.

I was reluctant to do it, because it wasn't our regular parish (whose angel tree we had missed), and because I am really struggling financially right now. However, my 11-year old son really wanted to get something for a boy his age. He was just jumping with excitement thinking about how happy this boy would be with the gift he would choose. How could I say no? I couldn't.

So I told him to pick an angel and meet me at the car. Several minutes later he came to the car with no angel. I asked him why. Well...there was only one angel for a boy near his age. What had the boy requested? A $50 gift card.

Bless Danny's heart, he knew that that was too much money for me. But it went way beyond that. All his pleasure at the thought of picking out a toy an 11-year old boy would REALLY love...was taken away from him. There's nothing that special about a gift card. Other than the denomination.

And I have been struggling with whether my initial reaction - anger that someone would be that greedy - is appropriate. Yes, I will spend more than $50 on my own kids - not a whole lot more, but more. And yes, sadly, some of that money - maybe the majority of that money - will be on a credit card. Why? Because I want my kids to have a nice Christmas. It won't be super extravagant - but things are expensive and my income has gone down. Maybe that is a mistake, but it is what I will do.

I am far less willing to spend money I don't really have on an angel-tree gift. Right or wrong, my own kids come first.

But it does bug me, when I think that, struggling as I am, I am hugely better off than the vast majority of the world. And I am grateful - very grateful - for the many blessings that I have. Maybe I am the greedy one, or maybe I am raising my kids to be greedy.

Today Danny and I volunteered our time for Elf Louise - a Christmas charity which, like the Angel Tree, aims to provide Christmas gifts for children whose families probably can't provide them. (Angel Tree does include the adults, unlike Elf Louise.) We wrapped presents for two hours. Danny got so much happiness thinking about how happy the kids would be when they got the presents he was wrapping. He and I both enjoy doing things for others. We will never see them get the presents. We will not receive any gratitude from them (although the people in charge today at the wrapping center did thank us for our help). I hope they will be appreciative. I know they may not be.

However, looking at it from my side, I am grateful we had the chance to do something to help others. It may have helped us more than we helped the recipients of the gifts.

This is rambling and not very coherent. Oh well. I may have some further thoughts on this subject later. For the moment, my questions are - Should we demand gratitude? Should we NEED gratitude? Are people who aren't grateful still deserving of help in excess of what is needed to live on (i.e., Christmas presents)? Heck, is it greedy (thus, presumably, ungrateful) for a 10-year-old kid to ask for a $50 gift card?

And one last question: why does the spell-check programme have a problem with the spelling of 'each?' Good grief!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You have given your son such a gift by teaching him how to give to others and that it doesn't have to cost money!
    2013 days ago
    I, too, appreciate how this has really connected with you. And good for you for teaching your own child the value of thinking of (and doing for) others.
    2013 days ago
    The fact that you are thinking so deeply on the subject is a testament to your heart. I applaud that. While we can only guess the thoughts of others, we can always test our own hearts and lead our children. You're doing great.
    2022 days ago
    It's always such a good feeling to help others. If you want to benefit most from that feeling you have to put aside thoughts of whether your help will truly be appreciated. Unfortunately often the people who really need the help the most don't get it and the ones who are given that help have such an attitude of entitlement, feeling grateful is the last thing on their minds. I am making a generalization here, there are some recipients of freebies who seem thankful, but by enlarge, from my experience in working with them, they are not.

    Good parents put their kids first, so of course it's natural as a good parent to give your own children the best gifts you can. Not everyone is in the position to give to the needy, so if you can do that in addition to supporting your own family, that's great, but certainly not expected. It's not greedy to take care of your own children first... it's responsible. And it's also normal to hope for some level of gratitude on occasion, especially when you go out of your way to help, but it may not be a good idea to expect it, especially from folks you don't know personally. Sometimes just knowing that you did a good thing has to be enough. And a request for a $50 gift card on a giving tree as a child's Christmas wish seems a little fishy to say the least... kinda sounds to me like somebody's mom or dad wants $50. And yes! Spell check always tries to turn "each" into "etch". Quite perplexing.

    Great blog, and so nice of you to help out and wrap all those presents! (and think of all those calories you burned while doing it) emoticon emoticon
    2022 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this story on SP. Great that you are even thinking about this with your son as most of us just go on just worried about our own lives. God bless you.
    2022 days ago
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