November 15, 2018

Gratitude Beyond Our Own Blessings


Recently I was visiting with a friend about her humanitarian aid experiences in Kenya. As we discussed her love for the people and the lessons she learned being with them, I asked what had touched her most. The experience she shared changed me.

She explained that approximately 400 elderly men and women gathered to see who would receive 13 wooden toilets. Although the organization had tried to determine who was in greatest need, it was evident this aid would greatly improve the quality of life for any individual who received it.

My friend watched the group rejoice as each of the 13 individuals received the aid. There were no ill feelings, no pride, no jockeying for who “deserved” it most—simply collective rejoicing and gratitude. As I listened to this experience, I was amazed. Even with the possibility of never receiving help for themselves, these people found joy and gratitude that anyone, someone, could receive help. 

I thought about how often I have taught about gratitude and how I have tried to develop “an attitude of gratitude” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1992, 54) by focusing on being grateful for what I do have rather than what I lack. But in that moment, these people showed me a higher and holier way of gratitude.

Rejoicing with Others

Alma declared: “My joy is more full because of the success of my brethren.

“Behold, they have labored exceedingly, and have brought forth much fruit; and how great shall be their reward!

“Now, when I think of the success of these my brethren my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.

“And now may God grant unto these, my brethren, that they may sit down in the kingdom of God; yea, and also all those who are the fruit of their labors that they may go no more out, but that they may praise him forever. And may God grant that it may be done according to my words, even as I have spoken” (Alma 29:14–17; italics added). 

Can we, like Alma or those people in Kenya, be grateful for what has been given—regardless of who is chosen to receive it?

When someone receives a blessing I desire, do I rejoice with them? Can I be grateful for the opportunity their success or blessing is to see God’s hand in their life, and thus begin to see it more readily in my own? 

Our Greatest Example

How grateful I am for continual examples of Christlike gratitude. Our Savior is our perfect example of gratitude. Before miraculously feeding the 5,000 or even raising Lazarus from the dead, He first thought to thank His Father. Throughout His ministry He testified that “the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). He confessed His Father’s hand in all things (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:21). He received all things with thankfulness and has been made glorious (see Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). How I love Him and want to be like Him! To be grateful for any blessing given—including those given to others—and grateful for any evidence of God’s hand.

I know as we follow His perfect example, He will help us to receive His promises:

“He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.

“… He that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19, 22; italics added).