Gratitude Aptitude

Fall of 1987 at the age of 5, I clearly recall my exhilaration knowing my paternal grandparents were arriving for their annual Thanksgiving visit.  Anticipation of the arrival held me prisoner at the front window for what seemed hours, scouting the street for the vehicle’s approach.  Top motivation for this stake out was not receiving unconditional love and warmth. It was the hoard of gifts my Grandmother Dorothy would bring and build into a medieval rampart for my sister and me.

When the package opening commenced I noticed my older sister was receiving far more material homage.  Utter disappointment and confusion seized me as the castle-sized pile grew smaller. To further the insult every package I opened revealed “new clothes.” Internally I began to question Grandma Dorothy’s judgment and understanding of grandchildren’s happiness.  Polite diplomacy concealed my inner disenchantment. I followed every gift with feigned gratitude and a “thank you.” In relief, the last gift was a toy.  It was finally my moment to correct this error in Grandma Dorothy’s clearly confused understanding of how gifting worked.  With a gentle guiding tone I informed her, “Next year, Grandma, how about all toys and ONE CLOTHES.”

My proclamation was a hit and favorite quote for years to come at family gatherings.  My Grandfather Ralph especially found pleasure in repeating the details my youthful perspective.   This was my last memory and experience with Grandma Dorothy.  She passed away shortly after.

Gratitude is being thankful, showing appreciation, and returning kindness.  It is a skill of the emotionally mature.  There are volumes of research on gratitude detailing the benefits of the skill. Some of the benefits include improved cardiovascular health, resilience to stress, improved ability to plan for the future, stronger more stable relationships, growth in work productivity, and improved emotional experiences. Gratitude is a skill one builds over time.

Discover your GRATITUDE APTITUDE with this quiz developed by psychologists Mitchel Adler and Nancy Fagley.  The quiz takes about 2 minutes to complete and is 20 questions. After completing the quiz you receive a results evaluation.  Want to have fun with friends and family this holiday?  Have them take the quiz and begin a discussion about everyone’s results.

In loving memory of Grandma Dorothy I share this family story with you.  Building the skill of gratitude begins with those closest to us.  Have a safe and fulfilling Thanksgiving holiday.


Jonathan Tyler, MA, LPC