Character Traits: Gratitude

A very important part of our total health is the development of basic character traits. And it may just be me (though I’ve had many customers, friends and family members comment), but I don’t see much good character development in our modern lifestyles.  I know there are families and churches, and even some schools that try to work with our young people to teach them good character principles, but most of us in our society today have adopted the “entitlement” concept of living: me first, because I deserve it!

I grew up poor in a southern, rural environment. We raised almost everything we ate because we couldn’t afford to buy other than the essentials (salt, sugar, flour, etc.) at the grocery.  My siblings and I wore mostly hand-me-downs. We were fortunate that my mom’s oldest sister and her husband had a dry goods store in a small town near us, and I was fortunate to be only a couple of years younger than their son.  So, I got first shot of the clothes he outgrew.  And these same clothes were then handed down to siblings and male cousins until they were literally threadbare. And we were all glad to get them. They were as nice or nicer than most of the kids in our community wore.

We had school activities to keep us with friends and after-school activities. Dad made most of our toys: old hoses made into hula-hoops before the commercial ones hit the market; a variation of horseshoes made using large washers and tin cans buried to their tops to serve as the “targets”; and bows and arrows made from string and limbs cut from the trees and chicken feathers from our chickens.

Outdoor activities included helping with household chores, and gardening was a family affair where stories were told, competitions for best looking rows or quickest task completion were commonplace, and numerous games.  Games were like tag, hide-and-seek, races, kick-the-can, marbles (played with ball bearings from dad’s tool shed), red rover using a rubber ball thrown over the roof of the house, and “who can do the most…” (cartwheels, high jumps, summersaults, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. – literally anything we could come up with).

My childhood predated television. So, evening entertainment included a few radio shows, family singing around the kitchen table while dad played the harmonica, and a myriad of family card and dice games. Homework was a requisite and learning to “spin a yarn” was a necessary learning skill.

We never thought of ourselves as “poor”. Life was rich. We experienced love firsthand. Truth was mandatory and dad’s belt was the consequence of not learning to abide by it. And gratitude can naturally. We never demanded more than we had; we had everything important to making a great life. A close-knit family, regular visits to the homes of grandparents and cousins, church services with singing and Bible stories, and friendly neighbors eager to share the things they had made life abundant.

Gratitude is a learned experience.  We didn’t even consider trying to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Instead, I can remember countless instances to hearing my parents say “aren’t we blessed to have …”, or “God is so good, we have everything we need”, or we have so much, let’s give some to ____, they’re having a tough time right now.” And we knew that our lack would be provided when OUR times of “need” came.  We didn’t need to worry.

Gratitude was also a practice. We never failed to offer a “thank you” when anything needed or new came our way. Thing about how good it feels when someone offers you a thanks for a gift or a deed rendered. I recently read the titles of some Bible apps that I plan to do regarding gratitude.  Things like: Gratitude, the key to contentment; Gratitude, being thankful changes everything; and Cultivating Gratitude.

Here’s a good practice for you to get started. Pay attention to the things going on around you this week and make it a point to express your gratitude with a heart-felt “thank you” at least a half dozen time each day.  It will change your life. I promise!

–  Randy Lee, BSE, MS, ND, is Owner of The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 73130. Call us at (405) 736-1030 and visit our website at