When did you first notice that some people are more thankful than others are? When I was a young father, I remember taking my little children out on Halloween to go “trick-or-treating.” They were very young, perhaps three and five, and were appropriately costumed in garb which thrilled us as parents. As they toddled to the front doors, I stood back and watched. I noticed that after they bravely mustered their “trick or treat,” and took the candy, they didn’t say “thank you.” It then became my mission to explain that after they received the candy, they should always say “thank you.”
After many attempts to encourage a grateful behavior pattern, in some frustration I came to understand that they were far more overwhelmed with the idea that when a door opens in the darkness two people with candy appear, than they were overwhelmed with the idea that they were being graced with an unwarranted gift. It dawned on me that gratitude needs a touchstone in the heart, a place or moment when someone recognizes that this didn’t have to happen: What I am receiving is pure gift! I neither earned nor deserved this! Such an insight is too profound for little children on Halloween night-and perhaps for many of us on any night.
David Zersen, What Is Grace Calling You to Be?