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



No comments:

Post a Comment