Humans have gone public with their gratitude.
People who, in the past, may have tucked gratitude journals into nightstand drawers or sent the occasional quirky thank you note can now post their blessings on social media.
Perhaps nowhere was this public expression of brazen thankfulness more evident than on Valentine’s Day, when the Internet flashed pink and red and downright mushy.
There were photos of date nights. E-cards. Photos of flowers. Photos of adorable sock monkeys tucked into heart-frosted coffee cups. There was even the occasional fretful post—I think he forgot, no wait, he does love me!
It’s not just Valentine’s Day, of course. Humans have become obsessed with thanking, congratulating, and complimenting one another online. (Don’t believe it? Try changing your Facebook profile page to a current photo of yourself and let the positive affirmations rain on your grumpy parade.)
So … here’s what I would like to know: What the heck is wrong with that?
Some say public expressions of “gratitude” are nothing more thinly veiled boastfulness. We don’t want to see the sunset from Bora Bora, they say, when our front yards are locked in layers of ice and snow. Don’t post a selfie of you and your dashing date while we are mucking our way through divorce. Be quiet about your child’s latest accomplishment, because ours didn’t get a part in that play.
Some people say we have forgotten how to express gratitude privately—how to celebrate without an audience.
But what if we’ve just forgotten how to be happy for one another? What if we are losing the fine art of applauding someone else’s good day?
It’s easy and safe to connect with our friends (and virtual friends) via the results of another online survey. (What Star Wars character are you? Queen Amidala!) It is considerably more challenging to connect with friends over more complex human trials and emotions.
One friend excels while another falters. One friend soaks in the sunrise as another struggles to get out of bed. Two friends uncover love, while two others resign themselves to love’s withering.
And, yes, much of this can now unfold in relative public. We have become, once again, the smallest of tribes, where everyone bears witness to your delights and sufferings. We have, many of us, become celebrities of sorts, pawning our privacy for a few spotlight moments and a Facebook anniversary video.
We can’t seem to help ourselves. Sometimes, we’ve just got to let our happy out.
And yet … there are quite a few of us left (at least around here) who grew up in real-life small towns. We always knew the world was never as anonymous as others expected it to be.
Humans were designed to celebrate—to feel joy and to share it. So go ahead. Be grateful. Count your blessings. Gratitude is contagious. There are a lot worse sentiments to be spreading online.
On Valentine’s Day, I found myself in the grocery store, surrounded by the giddy tsunami of flowers, balloons, and chocolates. The employees were handing out a variety of decadent samples, so my daughter and I decided to partake in the chocolate-covered strawberries.
Before I could choose from the bounty of confectionary wonders before me, the chef behind the counter presented me with a plain strawberry, deep red and gorgeous. He held it by its leafy green stem—a gift. Giving someone a strawberry is like giving someone a rose, he said. Beautiful.
Then he encouraged me to select a chocolate-dipped strawberry as well.
And so it goes. I was given two strawberries on Valentine’s Day, one sweet and adorned, one luscious and organic. To be clear, the chef wasn’t flirting. He was simply sharing the abundance and reminding me to appreciate it.
As I walked through the parking lot, I never worried that someone might mock or be threatened by my two-fisted indulgence. When life hands you strawberries, there’s no room for anything beyond sweetness.
I’m not boasting about my Valentine’s surprise. At least I’m not intending to. I share stories of gratitude because I can’t help being dumbstruck by the fullness of living. I expect others feel the same way.
Don’t make life smaller by being cautious in your awe of it.
Can we agree to forgive one another our momentary lapses into silly appreciation and our fawning over unexpected blessings?
Sure be conscious not to fall into boastfulness. But remain unapologetic about authentic gratitude. Did you fall in love today? With your family? Your dog? A song? A stranger? The best salad you ever ate?
Tell me all about it.
I’m happy for you.