Thursday, May 26, 2011

Expectations and Gratitude

It has not escaped me that Oprah's last show aired yesterday. I would have to be living under a rock to have missed that information although I didn't watch it. I used to watch her show regularly, I even had a subscription to O magazine for a while before I discovered I just don't make the time to read magazines with any regularity and let it lapse. It was Oprah who introduced me to the concept of being aware of and recording gratitude via Sarah Ban Breathnach, which has stuck with me through 1,122 days and counting.

Today I am pondering gratitude for a number of reasons. I am mixing gratitude up with expectations. I am wondering why it isn't enough for me to express my personal gratitude without expecting an acknowledgement in return.

A few weeks ago one of Riley's extra activities, that had run from the previous September to this May, came to an end. I had asked the other parents who participated in the year to financially contribute to a $50 gift card for the person who ran the event the year long. They all agreed, happily paid up and wrote some thought-felt words in a card I purchased. When I presented this to the organizer of the event, she didn't open it right away, but popped it into her bag "for later". For days I waited for an email or a phone call, something that would thank me/us in return for our own gesture. Two weeks have now passed and not only has there been no email or phone call but I have seen this person at school drop off a few times. Still, nothing has been mentioned. I haven't gone so far as to fish for a response and I find myself struggling with it to be enough that I made my own gesture of gratitude with out the expectation of a thank you back.

Where is the line between good manners in thanking someone for a gift and expecting acknowledgement for something I did willingly and genuinely?

Last year I tried to grow something in a part of my garden that had only produced weeds. I was planting physically and metaphorically but managed to only coax out small bits and pieces of colour where I had imagined a riot of wildness. Physically and metaphorically. This year I am trying again in the same patch of ground but my expectations are different. I am just going to "wait and see" what decides to bloom despite the variety of seeds planted. I am still tending, watering, and watching over it. Physically and metaphorically.

And in other parts of my garden I am grateful for the irises about to burst

the tiger's eye still to be planted


the last of the tulips

bursting gazanias

and funky weeds that show up all on their own


Sherry Smyth said...

Great questioning Kim...gratitude and expectations. I think there is a distinction. You made a generous gesture as did the other parents. The expectation that came with that was courtesy and respect, neither of which were forthcoming. You shared your gratitude. And that are grateful for the time that this parent gave.

Good manners and respect "dictate" that the recipient of a card says "thank you". She did. But to put it in her purse and say I'll look at that later? I personally find that rude. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps she was so touched she was at a loss for words; maybe she is shy and didn't know how to respond. Many people find it difficult to accept compliments and thanks.

Two weeks have passed and there hasn't even been the acknowledgment that the card was opened...not even "that was such a lovely card and was much appreciated"...and so I believe that there was a lesson for both of you in this. The lesson for this woman is for her to determine (if she even wants to).

For you it's that being grateful is enough...take that away with you. The acknowledgment of the act is unimportant. And never let this one person's response prevent you from continuing to share your gratitude.

Lovely garden...I hope we get some decent weather here to do some planting this weekend.

Snap said...

What Sherry said!

One of the Buddhist Lessons several years ago for the month of January was *don't be critical* .............. Oh, my ... easier said than done. Dick and I would look at each other, about to be critical about something or someone, and burst out laughing. LAUGH at her rudeness and know you shine with graciousness.

Kim Mailhot said...

I consider it rude when someone doesn't say thank you for a gift. I don't think your expecations of a thank you were unjustified - that is really a pretty small expectation, especially if you have seen this person since, and she could have at least given you a sincere verbal thanks.
However, I have been learning that those expectations are not shared by everyone. Many people don't seem to value the most basic of manners any more and that is a sad thing. But all we can do is do our best to live up to those expecations ourselves and provide an example to follow. And work on letting go of discouragement that comes when people disappoint.
Oh, and be grateful for them when they don't disappoint!!!
Thanks for our talk today. I felt really grounded and supported afterwards.
Big love, Kimmy-Poo !

magpie said...

ah, the neverending cycle - giving freely, lovingly without expectation and then....expectation.

i'm by no means a buddhist, not even a pollyanna, but when i read this post i wondered if the envelope might've gotten lost at the bottom of the woman's bag.

i feel you should remark on the gift - 'did you ever open the card' seems innocuous enough, no?

I think we all want to know the outcome and the niggling annoyance will plague you til you know.

tell her your followers are curious. give me her email addy and i'll query her :)

Cheryl said...

I'll agree this woman is rude and she has totally lost my respect. How hard is it to say thank you? What kind of example is she setting? She's supposed to be the leader!

MM Enterprises said...

Wow, so nice & beautiful flower thanks for sharing.

agadka said...

nice pics