To be appreciative we must be grateful. We cannot be appreciative if we are incapable of gratitude. Gratitude is more than being polite. After receiving a kindness, it is polite to say words of gratitude. However, selfish people can be trained to respond appropriately to kindness.

Gracious acts and words of thanks appropriately expressed in a timely manner may prove only that a person is well trained. They may reveal gratitude. They may not.

Gratitude is a state of heart produced by an appreciative mind. Politeness is responsive behavior expressed through gracious manners and an appropriate vocabulary. While the heart is essential to gratitude, it is not essential to politeness.

This past week Joyce and I were richly blessed by a week of vacation. While we "had fun," the real joy was experienced in time together, rest, and escape from stress. The week freed my mind "to see" and "to feel" in ways that heightened awareness. Frequently I found myself quietly praying prayers of gratitude.

Through opportunities and experiences, God gave me "eyes" that "look at life" from more than the American perspective. The greater majority of the world's population suffers from a poverty that exceeds our ability to grasp. In their wildest imagination these people could not mentally picture our vacation world.

For many their government decrees how many children they can have. This decree is enforced through abortion when necessary. For many others, half of their children die before reaching five years of age. Because of poverty and overpopulation, children either (a) are not wanted [by the government] or (b) have a fifty percent chance of survival. The parents are powerless to change either reality.

From birth to adult death, many will never have enough to eat. Many adults die rarely having eaten all they wanted any day of their lives. The majority could not buy enough food for their families if they spent everything they earned just on food.

In the early 1990s Joyce and I worked in Poland. Economic recovery had just begun.

We heard of a Russian who dreamed of visiting America. He could not believe the stories he heard about America's prosperity. Then, he had a chance to visit Poland. As he prepared to return to Russia he said, "I no longer want to visit America. Nothing could be as prosperous as Poland!"

"God, may we turn from a mere vocabulary of politeness. Give us hearts of gratitude."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 September 1999

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