Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Being on the Receiving End of Gratitude



"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." William Arthur Ward



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 to demonstrate 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



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Can You Sleep When the Wind Blows?



"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 blows? 

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.”