Gratitude.. leading by example

The city I stay in is a paradise for public transport. To get from anywhere to everywhere, there is always a train or a tram or a bus available. Naturally I use it on a regular basis and every time when I get off the bus, I say thank you to the driver.

For driving of the bus may be a part of the job, but it is a job that helps me reach places. It is a process that helps me make memories, try new restaurants, meet my friends, visit sick relatives in hospitals, go shopping or for my fitness class and so much more.

I use the bus to pick up my child from the day care and everyday when I pick up my child, I thank each one of the caretakers I meet. I know they get compensated for taking care of the children but what they do is so much more valuable than their remuneration. They make sure the most precious person in my life remains happy and safe throughout the day. They make sure she is fed and rested. There are no amount of thank-yous that I can say that would be enough for the service they provide.

I always express my gratitude to people who hold doors for me or offer to help me down the stairs with the pram when the lift isn't working. I make it a point to say thank-you to car drivers who break their momentum for me to cross the road and to each person I encounter during the day for every act of kindness they carry out. Yet I have never forced my daughter to say Thank you. I always suggest it but when she refuses, I don't push her. 

Not because I don't want her to know her manners but because I want her to feel the gratitude before expressing it. I strongly believe that if we truly 'feel' something within then we will do it for life with all our heart but if we carry out an act just because we are told to, chances are we will quit the practice at the first given opportunity.

Understanding and feeling is the key to gratidute, not forcing. I often explain to her how happy the other person would feel if they know that their act and effort is appreciated. I also mention how their one act impacts our life and beliefs in so many ways. Sometimes she nods as if she understands it all at other times she doesn't react. Her non-reaction is fine since I hope she understands and feels first. Expression would just be the next and equally important step. 

She has asked me on a few occasions why I thanked someone and I always explain how I think they helped us. I repeatedly add how grateful I feel and sharing my gratitude with the others helps us all. Nothing more, no suggestions for her personally. Internally I hope that she learns by example. 

She is all of 3 and I am not sure if it is too soon to expect anything.

And then one weekend afternoon she wakes up from her nap with a yellow stuffed Giraffe in her hand, the one that I had bought for myself much before she was born. 

She runs into my arms with her eyes partially closed, it is too bright for her tiny eyes. 

She says- Amma, I want to thank you. 

Astonished, touched and confused, I say- that's so sweet but why do you want to thank me? 

She says- because you bought this giraffe for yourself. 

I am still confused so ask her to explain further

She says-Since you got it, we have it at home, and because you are sharing it with me, I get to play with it too. 

A tight hug in return was my truest expression of gratutide to her.