Engendering a Sense of Gratitude

 “An act of gratitude is not just an expression of humility, but it is also a way to improve one’s life.”     

  -Emmons and McCullough

What ties the world together in common pain and suffering may well spark an era of gratitude the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes.  It may result in amazing and unexpected consequences.  When we care for family and friends, neighbors and neighborhoods, this may spark a universal gratitude for the world, and the interconnectedness of everything on the planet. Gratitude for our lives themselves and for the entire fabric of this beautiful blue sphere on which we inhabit may emerge.

This is why the work we do in philanthropy is noble.  Although it may sound a bit pretentious, working with benefactors and helping them express their gratitude makes us in a sense moral trainers.  G.K. Chesterton remarked, “Gratitude produces the most purely joyful moments in people’s lives.”  I know you are thinking, “Oh, here they go again…The Boys of Joy.” Well, Scott and I gladly take on that moniker.  The work we do when well-intentioned and authentic, when it is not about pushing people to make gifts (transactional fundraising), but about creating important and just ideas for the world that are compelling, that draw benefactors and inspire them is simultaneously helping humanity and the giver.  The ultimate win-win.  This is precisely how we turn money into meaning through philanthropy.

However, it doesn’t have to be expressed materially.  What we are seeing in the world today is a spiritual awakening demonstrating that caring and sharing is healing.  Research has indicated that relationships, mentors and kind acts are valued even more than material gifts.  We are hard- wired for caring and sharing in that precise order.  First there is empathy and then there is sharing.

When we engage in the act of reviewing our lives with gratitude, we naturally are reminded of those who gave us a break, who trusted us, lifted us, and believed in us. Many benefactors, and particularly entrepreneurs will tell us they are not motivated by people who ‘sell and tell’ them what they should be doing, but rather through reflection upon those who helped them in life. Many entrepreneurs have said to me, “I don’t have to have my name on buildings.”  However when we explore honoring those who were mentors in their lives they are intrigued by honoring a parent, a teacher a role model and often that can be the first gift of significance they commit to in their lives.

 So how do we as moral trainers engender gratitude?  We ask value-based questions around gratitude.

-Who was the most influential person in your life and your success?

-Was there someone who gave you an opportunity, a big break or provided advice and assistance when you most needed it?

-Most successful entrepreneurs talk about ‘their feeling fortunate.’ What role has feeling fortunate or grateful played in your life?

-In what ways have you thanked or expressed gratitude to those who have played a significant role in your life?

-We have worked with many entrepreneurs who say that having their names on buildings or funds is not that meaningful to them. But have seen that honoring others through philanthropy is very meaningful.

We highly recommend that you consider cultivating your own “attitude of gratitude” through calling or writing notes to those important people in your lives. It will lift others while it lifts yourselves.

 “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”  -Dietrich Bonhoeffer



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