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Business does not do gratitude

Twenty-five years ago the then minister of finance told me how the first lesson he learnt in business and politics was that genuine gratitude is indeed a rare virtue. But ordinary people often understand the power of gratitude.

It is not all that difficult to detect genuine gratitude from the fake form that abounds in our lives, not least in business life. Good manners and saying “thank you” as well as giving gifts to business and other leaders who we hope can grant us more valuable favours is not exactly gratitude, even if such actions are the norm in business life.

One of the best descriptions I found of gratitude is that “it comes from within, it is an appreciation of all that is good and welcome in our lives. Gratitude is expressed when we openly give thanks for those things”. How often do we give such thanks?

When a young friend of mine told me that his elderly father whom I have known for decades was not at all well and probably nearing the beginning of his final journey, I did not want to miss the opportunity to visit him and hopefully offer him some company.

As one does in such circumstances, I wondered what I should say to this terminally-ill elderly person who has to submit himself to long and tough medical treatment at our hospital twice a week to keep going, even if his medium term prognosis is not all that good.

I recalled the words of the Australian author Bronnie Ware, who gave up a career in banking early in her life to care for the terminally ill, says: “Our society has shut death out, almost as a denial of its existence. Rather than acknowledge the existence of death, we try to hide it. Once we acknowledge that limited time is remaining, although we don’t know if that is years, weeks or hours, we are less driven by ego or by what other people think of us.”

So I was more than pleasantly surprised when my elderly friend greeted me with a sparkling smile that shone from his weak face that showed undeniable signs of terminal decline. I asked him how he was getting on with his treatment at Mater Dei Hospital. I expected a list of complaints that I have become used to hearing from people who frequent our hospital.

True happiness is only enjoyed by those who understand the power of gratitude

But my friend was just grateful for the dedication of the medical and nursing staff that take care of him in his twice weekly visits to the hospital. He described them as “angels” who really cared about him and did all they could to satisfy his simple demands that often consisted of having a cup of tea while he was stuck to medical equipment for several hours.

His only concern was that his twice weekly trip to the hospital was a bumpy one and that this caused him nausea that in turn gave some extra work to the ambulance staff that were taking him to Mater Dei.

Forgetting the tough health conditions he is facing, he told me how grateful he was for having had the privilege to spend four decades educating young people. I was humbled by his comment as I have frequently expressed concern about how our educational system is failing so many young people. If only more educators shared the enthusiasm of my friend, maybe we could achieve more in this field.

Unfortunately, such examples of gratitude are not common. We often have to deal with people who are only interested in playing the victims and demanding that “justice be done”. Some are really the victims of injustices caused by their work bosses, colleagues or other persons in authority. But many others just want to ride on the bandwagon of these victims simply to get a free ride with the benefits that it brings.

What annoys me most of all is that even when one tries to remedy injustices, some of these so called victims ask for compensation that exceeds all limits of reasonableness. Not only do they fail to be grateful for seeing justice being done in their case, but like Shylock they want more than their pound of flesh, however much it costs to get it.

We have often been told that good leaders should never expect gratitude for the decisions they make. This is sound logic. But true happiness is only enjoyed by those who understand the power of gratitude.

johncassarwhite@yahoo.com

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