The Jewish year is filled with holidays and often we get caught up in the preparation and the “doing” of the holiday. However, the holidays truly give us the rhythm of our days to make us stop to show gratitude and appreciation. It is not just for holidays (and we are fortunate to have Shabbat every week) — we must focus on being thankful, showing gratitude and really looking at all we have in this world to appreciate and not wait for a holiday. The “Jewish value of hoda’ah — appreciation or gratitude” should be part of every day. Being thankful is a life-affirming quality and should be practiced when things are good and when they are more difficult. A poll from a few years back found that Americans think their own gratitude is increasing, while everyone else’s is going down (survey commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation). What does that say about us? Here are some of the findings and as you read them, think whether this has changed in recent times:
How important is gratitude? More than 90% agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives and are more likely to have friends.
When do we feel grateful? Given a list of categories, people were most grateful for their immediate families, followed closely by freedom.
How do we say “thanks”? Less than 50% said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well the postman, the cleaning staff, etc.
Who is grateful? Women were more grateful than men; 18- to 24-year-olds express gratitude less often than any other age group; people were least likely to express gratitude in workplaces…despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.
So there are the statistics but what can we do for all those around us and for ourselves? This past week was National Teacher Appreciation Week, then we had Mother’s Day — do we need those reminders? YES, apparently we do, but just knowing it is a special day or week, showing appreciation must come from the heart and we must look deeply to see what each person values. In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote a book titled “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.” The book outlines the five ways we express and receive love and is thought to be the key to healthy, happy relationships. The book took on a life of its own with the languages adapted to different groups and tests online to find out your love language. In brief they are: gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time. Why is this important to know? Simply said, it makes the appreciation feel right to the person. For example, as a teacher I often get gifts and I love gifts; however, I really love the words in the notes that come with the gifts so much more. For those you appreciate, think about what their love language is and how best to show appreciation that truly hits the right spot. And you know what — it will make you feel good as well!
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.