A Debt of Gratitude

by Mohamedarif Suleman – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

One of the things that we all seem to have forgotten about, nay, taken for granted, is that we have a debt. Now before you jump to conclusions, and start justifying how debt-free you are, take a second glance at the article title – it pretty much gives away the mystery out of this statement.

I have been fortunate to live though multiple phases in my life, whether economic, social or personal turbulence, I have been there, and this in itself has provided me with the unique opportunity to understand that variance in life and the correlations that life produces, are not just natural phenomena, but at times, also essential for our own self reformation. In making this statement, I am essentially expressing gratitude, am I not? For the lessons that life teaches us, are immense, but few of us take time to appreciate events that we regard as unfavourable, as having been those precise turn around moments in our lives, that took us toward one form of betterment or another.

The debt we owe our creator is nothing short of that – to be able to see the good in things and then be grateful for them – an extremely difficult thing to do, but one that remains a debt, regardless. And whereas I had always though I will postpone this thought for the twilight of my life, I am having second thoughts knowing well that one cannot be too sure after all about the span he has been granted, to be grateful for.

As the world economy nose dives by leaps and bounds, and as analysts and pundits forecast gloom, it is no longer extraordinary to see our friends and acquaintances engage in toxic discourses of Armageddon. Well, that would be a bit extreme, but the most common feature is the idea of migration. And whereas moving from one place to another is certainly a good thing, most of the times, it becomes very difficult to understand when very well settled individuals, with alpha lifestyles grumble thus. And as the poem becomes a lyric, then a rhyme and a song, you can probably see this as a predominant feature much like the weather stories of the United Kingdom.

‘Gratitude is a sign of the noble’, goes a proverb, and simply means that people who are grateful, or people who show gratitude by saying things like thank you, are good people that we can all admire. In other words, people who are happy with and are thankful for what they have, have good qualities; such as generosity, honesty, and others. And so it seems, that this admirable trait leads back to us and then goodness around us is sure to radiate. This is probably something we have all read in those monthly psychology magazines, but have perhaps failed to relate to ou daily routine lives.

Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, in her article ‘The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief’, she remarks “We all want a happy life. A cushy job, a perfect family, financial stability, and a great social life! And in this indefinite pursuit of happiness that is mostly like a mirage, how often do we spare a minute to thank what we already have at this very moment? Gratitude is a powerful human emotion. By conveying and receiving simple ‘thank you’ messages, we can truly derive the pleasure that we seek everywhere else. Gratitude, derived from the Latin word ‘gratia’, means gratefulness or thankfulness. In its simplest form, gratitude refers to a ‘state of thankfulness’ or a ‘state of being grateful’.”

Jeffrey Tucker in his write up ‘Gratitude Is Essential for a Free Life’, makes this incredible point: “A friend of mine described what it was like for her to discover the meaning and implications of economic liberty in the world. Before, most of her formal education put down enterprise, business, corporations, and wealth creation, talking only about their downsides. The world was dark, with the monsters of exploitation, pollution, and inequality lurking around every corner. But learning economics changed all that. Suddenly she saw that the consumer products all around her are not given by nature; they were created through a process that involved an amazing human drama of risk and reward. Within the commercial sector we find an orderliness that no one designed but is inclusive of everyone who wants to participate. Commerce is expansive, exciting, creative, and benevolent, always working to uplift the human spirit. Business is glorious. It serves humanity. This is a huge difference in perspective, and discovering it can rock your world. What is the key change in perspective? It has something to do with how you see the world around you. All the blessings that surround us can be seen as either a given fact of reality that deserve a severe criticism, or as blessings that do not have to exist but nonetheless are available to us as gifts of the heroic exercise of the human spirit. To me, the key to the shift is gratitude, which comes from an awareness that all the awesomeness around us does not have to be. It comes to us for a particular reason: because people created, invented, invested, and made it happen for you and me. And let’s go one layer deeper. What kinds of institutions incentivize and coordinate all this activity? It’s not government, which has no resources of its own and creates nothing truly new. It comes from the institutions of the market economy: private property, and signaling systems like prices and interest rates.

Now let us ask ourselves, if we truly try to be grateful. Do we really practice that and then teach our children the magical words ‘thank you’, or do we usually take it as our right and privilege to be served and assisted by all and sundry. In many cultures, for example the Swahili culture, ‘ahsante‘ and ‘nakushukuru‘, form so much of a speech protocol, that it is easy to annoy or diorientate someone when he or she is not acknowledged for their role or performance. Now, of course, some days this is stretched too far than others, but in sum, the idea to pass here is that we cannot be invincible, indispensable and all powerful. Gratitude words breed humility and we should use them all so more often. And lest we forget, let us thak the Almighty as we bow down in prayer today and at the end when we can chant in unison, shukran lillah.

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