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Gratitude and Learning

The other day I was in a sandwich shop and had ordered my custom sandwich. I reached into my pocket and found my phone, but not my wallet. I told the person behind the counter to hold my lunch, and I’d be back to claim it, with my wallet. The stranger in front of me said not to worry, he’d pay for my lunch, and he added a bag of chips and a drink on top of it! I was embarrassed but also grateful, even more so for the moment he provided for me than for my sandwich. I said I’d pay it forward to another person.

Dr. Neel Burton, MD with Phycology Today (see distinguishes gratitude from appreciation “which is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of a person or thing, but without the dimension of awe or wonder or profundity or humility that is the essence of gratitude.” He shares that gratitude has poetically been defined “as the memory of the heart.” I might change that expression to “knowledge of the heart.” As knowledge, gratitude leads us to have greater hope, positive actions, inspiration, and eventually an increase in learning. Gratitude can be an “engine” in the learning model to increase our confidence. When we are the recipient of someone’s kind action, we are inspired – maybe our “ah-ha” moment, and we receive a bit more knowledge or understanding, and our hopes grows, and we feel gratitude, which increases our confidence to act. Dr. Burton explains that gratitude “opens our eyes to the miracle that is life, something to marvel at, revel in, and celebrate, rather than ignore or take for granted as it flies us by. It encourages and heightens life-enhancing states such as joy, tranquility, consciousness, enthusiasm, and empathy, while inhibiting painful emotions such as anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, regret, and envy, with which it is fundamentally incompatible.”

Gratitude might be essential to inspiration, or that ah-ha moment, which leads us to increased knowledge; and, as we express gratitude towards each other, we strengthen each other’s confidences, hopes and all are edified, lifted, and “act” and learn. This cycle continues and sometimes we call it “paying it forward.”

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