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Does Gratitude Require a Benefactor?

At a recent meeting of the Clarkesville Writers Society (not pictured above), the members shared short pieces they had written on the theme of gratitude. The following is the one I presented.

Does Gratitude Require a Benefactor?

In the movie “America’s Sweethearts” one of the characters goes to a New Age retreat where he learns to be grateful for just about everything. He chants about this: I’m grateful for the trees; I’m grateful for the sun… the list continues.

He never gives credit to the source of all these good things, and this implies that he has no source in mind. But can you be truly grateful for something if you have no clue where it came from? If I were to give you a thousand dollars, you would be grateful to me. If a policeman stopped you for speeding and gave you just a warning, you would be grateful to him. If it seemed impossible for you to have received the gift, you might be grateful to a supernatural being, whether Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, or Kali. If you don’t know any supernatural beings, you might even be grateful to a natural process for something wonderful. You might be grateful to evolution for producing wild dogs and then to the humans of long ago who domesticated them. Your gratitude would extend to the breeders who produced over 300 dog breeds, including the best of all, the standard poodle.

However you express it, it seems to me that, to be truly grateful for something, you have to have a benefactor in mind. Otherwise you’re just glad to have that good thing.

September a year ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma; I was a very sick guy. Not everyone has good results from chemotherapy, but I provided one of the success stories. The treatments not only brought me back to decent health, but they did so without any serious side effects. No one considered that a commutation of sentence, but only a stay of execution. After several months a scan showed some unwelcome growth, and the oncologist put me on some chemo pills which seem to be doing the job.

All of that is to say I’m grateful to God for an extra year to enjoy the fellowship of friends and family, as well as activities I enjoy. I don’t know if any supernatural healing has been involved, but if not, my benefactor remains the same. God created humans with the intelligence needed to develop medical science, including the diagnostic tools and treatments that have helped me so much.