I recently came upon this quote from President John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
The timing of it was no accident. I happened to be on Brain Quotes looking for quotes to accurately summarize a feeling of gratitude I had recently experienced. This one sums up the experience perfectly.
‘Gratitude’ for life experiences really is a funny thing. Depending on ones beliefs, their gratitude for a specific event or occasion may be conveyed as ‘good karma,’ a ‘blessing,’ or even ‘the universe smiling.’
Personally, I’m a person who speaks of blessings. I was raised by a mother who stated (often) “Everything happens for a reason” and “God never gives us more than we can handle.”
Even as a child, knowing my mother (a single parent since the age of 17), I felt these words had value. Sure, there are plenty of times I have felt overwhelmed or over trusted by God, but somehow in time these statements prove themselves to be true.
This became evident to me most recently, as I prepared to sell my 1999 Suburban. At four plus dollars per gallon, with most of my driving being ‘around town’ the math became simple. A car payment would be cheaper than what I spend in gas (as well as repairs) on our old family car. It’s the only car my children have ever known and we have traveled to many states in the ‘Mommy Bus,’ but as much as I loved it, I love saving money more. It had to be done. It was time to sell.
In complete honesty I wondered if anyone would even call or show an interest in my 13-year-old car. It was well loved by two kids and a few dogs. Not to mention the scrape along the driver’s side from me backing into our garage when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter. Yes, we never had it fixed. Why would we? The car was eight years old at that point and it was easily doctored by one of those paint pens from the automotive store.
The scratch was a somewhat nice deterrent. In addition to driving a tank-like vehicle, its scar cautioned other drivers that I meant business. Clearly I was not preoccupied by a well manicured vehicle appearance.
But I digress.
Once I put the feelers and ads out there to sell our family car, I waited … patiently. There was no bidding war. My phone did not ring incessantly. I did however (a week later) receive a text from a friend who knew of someone looking for an inexpensive car.
Long story short, many phone calls and text messages later the car was sold.
The lesson, however, came as I awaited the arrival of the couple interested in seeing my well-loved vehicle. Feelings of insecurity and a bit of shame as I looked at the overall condition of our family tour vehicle.
As a side note: I must share that I am an extreme Type A perfectionist, so even as I type that previous sentence I hear my girlfriend exclaiming, “That car was in great shape for 13 years old. It was clean and well maintained.” And it was. But at some point I stopped caring, so when I looked at it that’s what I saw.
The potential purchasers were thrilled with the car when they arrived. As I opened doors and flip seats, I caught myself explaining stains and upholstery blemishes. Only to be greeted by smiles and head nods. They could care less, they loved it.
Following their test drive, they confirmed they indeed wanted to purchase it and would be back with the money - in cash.
That night as I reflected on the day and all that transpired, I learned a lesson more valuable than the cash I received from that couple.
I am known by many of my friends as a ‘very positive and grateful’ person. That moment (with that couple), however really made me question if I was really ‘walking the talk.’ I speak of gratitude and blessings often, but when we feel shame in a material possession are we living true to our purpose?
In that moment I realized, not only am I blessed but spoiled.
By definition the word ‘spoiled’ states: ‘To impair the value or quality of” and that is exactly what I did.
This was a perfectly good vehicle. Perhaps not as shiny and new as those driven by many of my friends. The emblem on the hood does not make heads turn and mouths water, but it was/is a reliable mode of transportation.
This family was thrilled to take possession of my 13-year-old car and somehow seeing their joy reminded me of what matters.
As stated by President Kennedy, “highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
I am grateful for this lesson and now the ability to rise above and ‘walk the talk.’ Our children learn what they hear and see. When we begin to take the simplest of things for granted, we teach that to our children and the cycle continues.
However, when we educate them and explain the simplest of blessings, their vision is in turn altered. This is when as parents we truly teach our children about greatness.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.