"Feeling gratitude and not
expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." William Arthur
I was recently the recipient of an
unexpected and generous expression of gratitude, and it felt so
wonderful! Here’s what happened:
Fifty years ago, I learned to speak
Portuguese while living in Brazil for a couple of years. Upon my
return to the United States, I completed my undergraduate degree with a
double major in Portuguese and political science. But then I lived for
many, many years in places where I had no opportunity to converse in
Portuguese. Over time I lost a lot of my vocabulary, my fluency, and
especially my confidence in this second language.
A few weeks ago, José and Nara, a
recently-immigrated Brazilian couple who speak very little English,
retained me to prepare wills and a trust for them. I was forced to
dust off my out-of-practice Portuguese in order to understand their wishes
for themselves and their sons, and then to draft (in English, thankfully)
the appropriate documents. Fortunately, they were very gracious and
patient with me and my rusty Portuguese. As we worked together, we
developed a genuine friendship and appreciation for each other.
During our last meeting, after I
had finished explaining a dozen documents for them to sign, and while
Angie, my paralegal, was making copies, the couple excused themselves to go
to their car. When they returned to my office, they were carrying an
enormous basket (pictured above) for me, and a separate gift bag for
Angie. Both were filled with an abundance of Brazilian sweets, treats,
and other goodies. Some were delights I remembered from my time years
ago in Brazil, while others were new to me.
This lovely couple’s expression of
gratitude caught me totally off guard, and the sheer enormity of the basket
completely blew me away. They said what they appreciated most was that
I pressed forward in Portuguese as well as I could, notwithstanding my
obvious difficulty in speaking in a tongue mostly dormant to me. That,
they said, lifted and encouraged them as they struggled to complete their
own daunting task of doing their estate planning in English, a language
equally difficult for them.
I took the basket home where my
wife and I opened and savored each delicacy, turning our impromptu tasting
party into a decadent substitute for supper.
Later, as I reflected on their
outrageously wonderful EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE, I asked myself, how many
times have I missed the opportunity to demonstratively express my
appreciation to those who have served, sustained, or sacrificed for
me? How often have I overlooked occasions when I could have left
others with the same level of joy I experienced when I received this huge
basket of Brazilian gratitude?
Thank you, José and Nara, for the
sweet lesson you taught me. From being the fortunate recipient of your
gratitude, I better understand, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, that “silent
gratitude isn’t much good to anyone.”
I have resolved that I will more
attentively look for ways todemonstrate my appreciation to
others who have blessed my life. I realize that I can best say thank
you for kindnesses like José and Nara’s by paying it forward. “One
can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay 'in kind' somewhere else in
life." Anne Morrow Lindbergh
"To be prepared is half the
victory." Miguel de Cervantes
The story is told of a farmer who
decided to hire someone to help him care for his prosperous property. The
only applicant was an older man with a limp. The farmer, a little
disappointed, reluctantly offered the man the job, but expressed his
concern to the prospective employee that he couldn’t work as hard as
someone younger and without physical limitations.
“Don’t worry,” said the older
man. “You won’t be disappointed. I can work as hard as someone
half my age, and besides, I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmer
was puzzled but didn’t say anything.
A few weeks later, the farmer woke
in the middle of the night to the sound of a huge approaching
storm. He roused his son and told him to run and get the hired man
from the bunkhouse so they could tend to the animals, equipment, and
buildings before the storm hit with all its fury.
He rushed to the barns to see what
he could do to protect his farm from the dangerous gale. His son
caught up to him shortly and reported he couldn’t wake the old
timer. This angered the farmer, and he swore he’d take care of that
unreliable hireling as soon as his farm was safe.
But as he and his son went from
barn to barn and shed to shed, they found that all the animals were safely
within their stalls and corrals. All the tools and equipment were put
away and locked up. All the doors and gates were closed tight. Everything
was battened down; nothing was amiss. There wasn’t a single thing they
needed to do, except go back to bed. The farm was safely sheltered
from the storm.
Then it came to him in a
flash. He remembered — and finally understood — what the older man with
the limp had said in the job interview: “I can sleep when the wind
blows.” He shook his head in amazement and appreciation, then went
back to the house with his son. He climbed back into bed, but he
didn’t sleep. All he could think about was a hired man, wise with
years, who could sleep when the wind blows.
Can you sleep when the wind
Trouble will surely come to all of
us sooner or later, but we need not be paralyzed in its
path. Preparation is the antidote to fear. Anticipating and
addressing future dangers will give us peace of mind. Living lives of
integrity and service will give us fortitude and resilience in the storms
of life. As my boyhood scoutmasters admonished us, “Be Prepared.”