On Gratitude vs Entitlement


This weekend as we raked our leaves then blew our leaves then moved our leaves across the street to the woods I was overwhelmed, brought to a few silent tears even.

I was overwhelmed not by the physical labor of the job (which given the fact that we saved an entire autumn’s worth of leaves in New England for one day's work was taxing) but by the sense of gratitude I felt as we worked.

Grateful for my husband next to me, working as a team. Grateful for the kiddos who played happily as they created their own leaf pile over and over again to jump in to. Grateful for the gorgeous fall day. The obvious things at first glance one might be grateful for.

Then it went on. Grateful for our house and our yard. Grateful for the land beneath it. Grateful for so many things big and small. Eventually feeling grateful for the earth and the plants on a cellular level which made me feel grateful for the sky which put me right back to feeling grateful for the gorgeous fall day, and my husband beside me, and the kiddos playing nearby. (circles...)

I was overwhelmed by these feelings not only because of the things that surrounded me which stirred them up but even more so by the fact that I was able to stop and feel them at all.

Just days before I stood in line at the DMV to renew our registration. I arrived a few minutes early and there was a LONG line outside on a COLD New England day. People shivered and waited patiently for the clock to hit 9:15. The doors opened on time and the line slowly snaked inside. I was grateful then that the doors were open and the line was moving, but…

After about half of the people in line had entered, it stopped moving. The doors were closed and a security guard was sent out to advise that due to Fire Codes we would have to wait until the first batch of people were dispersed throughout the building. It made perfect sense, I was grateful for the attention to detail and the public safety being enforced.

This feeling was not unanimous. People started grumbling which turned in to yelling at the guard. If the building was open, they “deserved” to be inside some said. Other’s shouted that the DMV would be “responsible” if they got sick from waiting outside. Some even shouted that donuts and hot coffee should be offered to compensate for their hardship of waiting. The guard responded “Don’t yell at me. I deserve to be home on retirement.” On and on it went…

The total wait time didn’t amount to more than a few minutes but the level of expectation and entitlement among people as we stood there overwhelmed me.

As I worked in the yard overwhelmed with gratitude I was grateful more than anything that I could be there working with my husband and feel thanks in the moment. To see how fortunate I was. To be able to count my many blessings. I was grateful that now more often than not I am able to operate from a place of gratitude versus entitlement.

Operating from a sense of entitlement I might have felt like I didn’t deserve to have to do my own yard work. I might have missed watching the kids playing in the yard. I wouldn’t have felt the sun on my back. My house might have seemed too small and our yard too much to maintain. The land and sky and plants around simply things existing only to assist me or even mores get in my way. Operating from a sense of entitlement I might have felt defensive. Like it was me vs the world. All thoughts and feelings I will fully admit to having felt more than once.

That day working in the yard, and more and more each day now, living from a place of gratitude I can drop the defense. Throw down the armor. I can feel connected to and part of. I can be open. I can feel thankful and if it leads to a few quiet tears while moving some leaves, so be it…