My parents always taught me to say please and thank you - especially when we were visiting friends or family.
Sometimes a glare from one of them or a, "What do you say?!" through gritted teeth was enough of a prompt to have me oozing gratitude as instructed.
But at times I really didn't feel pleased nor thankful. I resented being cornered into it - but I did it nonetheless.
Fast forward 35 years and I smile to myself as I think about me, the grumpy 7 year old, trying to be a rebel, but conforming every time!
Today I feel gratitude for everything. When I go to the cash machine and it gives me the money I've requested instead of showing me that heart sinking message, "Sorry, you have insufficient funds. You can withdraw £0.00 today". When my daughters call me up and they sound happy and well. Being warm in my bed and hearing my son's deep restful breathing as he sleeps soundly next door. For all of it I am grateful.
The natural beauty of my homeland never ceases to render my heart bursting with gratitude. I have many bird feeders in my garden and a vast array of regular winged visitors. Mr & Mrs Blackbird are particularly good at expressing their thanks for the food I leave them. Hanging around after they've eaten their fill, tilting their heads, looking at me keenly as if nodding in appreciation.
One morning as I worked my way through filling all the feeders, I took a break and sat on my doorstep to watch them while I rang my daughter Emily. She didn't answer so I left a short message. Thinking I'd hung up I carried on with what I was doing. Later that day Emily rang me laughing and saying that she had a 5 minute message from me saying, " Hello Mr Blackbird, you're a handsome boy. Oh hello Mrs Blackbird, what are you up to today? Did you enjoy your snack Mr & Mrs Blackbird?" and on and on...!
I do get excited by the animals, plants & scenery around me, and when other aspects of my life are difficult and challenging nature is a constant pleasure to me - and for that I am truly grateful.
A man who wrote beautifully on his love of nature was Roger Deakin. I recently read his book, "Wildwood: A journey through trees" and I would highly recommend it.
"Gratitude: You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. You always take the time to express your thanks. Gratitude is an appreciation of someone else's excellence in moral character. As an emotion, it is a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life itself. We are grateful when people do well by us, but we can also be more generally grateful for good acts and good people ("How wonderful life is while you're in the world"). Gratitude can also be directed toward impersonal and nonhuman sources - God, nature, animals - but it cannot be directed toward the self. When in doubt, remember that the word comes from the Latin, gratia, which means grace." - Martin E.P Seligman, Ph.D