Gratitude is a funny thing.
Dozens of studies show that when all is said and done, we humans in the "developed" world, "Western" world — whatever you want to call those of us lucky enough to live in a certain geographical location and enjoy a certain standard of living — really aren't that much happier (or, extrapolating, more grateful since gratitude is tied to happiness), when we earn more money. See, for instance, Dr. Robert Glatter's piece in Forbes, "How Much Money Do You Really Need to Be Happy?"
Overall, entering into a state of gratitude is a rare thing these post-post-modern days, and I wonder why.
Thanksgiving seems to be one of the few times most of us consider gratitude in any larger sense beyond thanking people politely during day-to-day transactions. Then, and at particular times of horror — 9/11 generated more spontaneous outpourings of love and gratitude in the West than any other occasion since the end of the Second World War.
It's the Great Turkey Day, just around the corner, that's become the annual cornerstone where we take time to consider what it means to enter into a state of gratitude, a state that, ironically, was once so much more prevalent when material wealth and comfort were so much rarer. At the same time, we also might wonder why we don't end up there, in that state, more often.
"Gratitude" comes from the Latin gratia, meaning "favour" and gratus meaning "pleasing." "Gratuity," "gratefulness" and all the other words stemming from these Latin roots have to do with "kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or getting something for nothing..." wrote clinical psychologist, Paul Pruyser, who contributed much to psychological theories of religion.
Gratitude is also tied to recognition — recognizing how things are and how they may have turned out worse, and recognizing who or what is the reason for them being as good as they are.
We first learn how to express gratitude, if we express it at all, from our parents. A blind study of middle-class children and their families at play revealed that mothers were much more grateful than fathers, spontaneously saying "thank you" 50 per cent of the time versus fathers saying it only 18 per cent of the time. Maybe our doggedly patriarchal culture adds to the usual yawning absence of gratitude.
So whether you're going to enjoy a full turkey dinner with a posh chestnut tart to top it off this Thanksgiving, or a simple meal with friends and family, I hope you pause for a minute at some point and remember what's part of our everyday world that deserves our gratitude, and why don't we express it more often.
Here's my own personal list, at least when it comes to the "eat, drink and be thankful" department around Whistler, in no particular order.
• All the hard-working entrepreneurs and their staff members for delivering the food and drink we love, night and day, seven days a week, rain or shine. From the smoothie mixers at The Green Moustache and the doughboys (and girls) at Purebread, to the crews slugging racks of crusty plates through the dishwasher at Black's Pub and the clerks stocking shelves or cashiering at The Grocery Store and Nesters Market — here's a shout out to you for all your hard work and dedication. Especially when you're toiling quietly behind the scenes and we don't ever get to tip you or thank you in person.
• Everyone who makes the community gardens and greenhouses work so beautifully. Thanks to Claire Ruddy and all the folks at AWARE (Association of Whistler Area Residents) who manage the community gardens. Thanks, too, to people like Dr. Stephen Milstein who got things started and Jim Cook who put in so much work over the years to get things "growing" and ensure they stayed that way. The garden plots are so "plot-pular" (sorry — couldn't resist!) there's pretty much a four-season waitlist these days. Last but not least, thanks to all the intrepid green thumbs — big thumbs and small — who make the garden plots and greenhouses great centres of cultivation. Double thanks, too, to the dedicated AWARE souls working hard on the Zero Waste program. Waste not, want not.
• The passionate farmers and all the folks making the Whistler Farmers Market a constant growing concern. You don't know what you've got till it's gone, and I bet thousands of people out there couldn't imagine Whistler without its farmers' market. Harvest time is coming to an end — the market's last day is Thanksgiving Sunday — so straw hats off to manager Chris Quinlan and all the people who make it one of the best sources of fresh, local food around, and a lot of fun to boot. See you next year!
• The generous souls who keep Whistler's Food Bank banked with food. Many, many people are grateful to food bank coordinator Gizem Kaya; all the people at Whistler Community Services and their volunteers; and all the food bank supporters and donors — including the Whistler Farmers Market — for keeping a vital service vital. Last year alone, the food bank served people more than 2,800 times. A quarter of the people have lived in Whistler more than 10 years.
My motto is, thank those you can next time you see them. And don't forget, the reciprocal of gratitude is giving back. The food bank and all the other good services at Whistler can always use a little thanks.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who likes to pay it forward.