Grateful for What?

I had no idea when I logged on to LinkedIn this Monday that I would be so profoundly moved by a simple question. But the question David North asked about showing gratitude for those who inspire us – the question that led to my post on Monday – it has stayed with me all week long.

Then today, a thought smacked me in the head, that I just cannot seem to shake.

In my post on Monday, I shared the meditation that puts everything in perspective for me, in my work with Community Benefit Organizations and in the rest of life.

Infinite gratitude for all things past.
Infinite service to all things present.
Infinite responsibility for all things future.

So here is the thought that attacked me today and will not let go. It came in two parts:
1) To live a life of gratitude, we would be grateful to everything and everyone in our lives. That would mean infinite gratitude to our clients, patrons, program participants.

Fair enough. But now the head-smacking question:

2) Gratitude for what?  Why are we grateful to the people who walk through our doors?  If it weren’t for our clients… what?  What words fill in that blank?

That’s when it hit me: Probably the top-of-mind, without-thinking-about-it answer for most of us would be something related to our own or our organization’s survival.

• If it weren’t for the patients at our clinic, I wouldn’t have a job.
• If it weren’t for the patrons at our theater, we couldn’t keep the doors open.
• If it weren’t for the clients at our food bank, I would be on Food Stamps myself!

Tell the truth – when you saw the question, “Why are you grateful to your clients?” was that your instinctive response?  (If not, please share what was!).

Talk about an eye-opener! If we are to truly be of service to our clients, is this really the emotional base from which we are providing that service?  How does that color the service we provide?

And because we are indeed creating our clients’ future – simply because the cause-and-effect of everything we do creates the future, just as the past created today – what future is that creating for those clients, for ourselves, for our communities?  Is it the future we had hoped to create?

So, dear readers, what do you think?  If we set aside the clients-as-job-security answer for a moment and dig deeper – how would you answer the question:

Why are you grateful to the people who use your services?
If it weren’t for them… what?
And what might that spirit of gratitude change about your work?

5 Responses to Grateful for What?

  1. I find your attitude inspiring and am grateful you choose to share your thoughts through your blog. I haven’t worked full time in a community benefit organization (love your reframe) since I left Albuquerque, NM, two years ago. My belief was always that I was in the business of putting myself out of business, and therefore needed to investigate, utilize and share the best practices possible to serve our clients, and support my colleagues. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to see client heal and move toward a more gratifying future.

  2. I am grateful to CBO “clients” for teaching me about strength, hope, and resilience. I am grateful to connect with each other as humans. I am grateful for perspective. I am grateful to share the exciting journey of making the world a better place.

    If you haven’t yet had a chance to read “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez, I strongly recommend it. This LA Times columnist’s life is deeply changed by the friendship he builds with a homeless former Julliard student who is living on the streets of our Skid Row along with his schizophrenia. Steve writes movingly about his own gratitude to Nathanial.

    Many thanks Hildy!!

  3. Hildy,

    No matter what the topic of your posts, they always manage to rev up my engines and gets me to think outside the box. This post is a timely and necessary reflection, especially around this time of the year when life seems to get ahead of us. So, I am grateful…

    Within our organization, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from the volunteers I manage. Each day brings a new lesson in resilience; dedication; commitment; frustration; despair; pride, etc. They inspire me with their handling of situations, and along the way (often while they are the ones assuming they’re learning something from us) they teach us, those heading the organization, about human dynamics and a never-ending philanthropic spirit that runs through their veins. In a sphere often filled with corruption and lack of transparency, our volunteers make me see the good in people. That’s priceless to me.

    I’m also eternally grateful for the chance of sharing my passion with others, and for being granted the chance to make of it a lifelong journey. (“Wow, I actually get paid to do this?” is a recurring thought in my internal monologue :))

    Lastly (though I could probably go on) I’m grateful because the people that I interact with on a daily basis have set out to do the near-impossible: change the world. Their tireless activism and idealism is an inspiration to many, and I’m humbled to be part of their inner circle.

    Thanks Hildy.

  4. I am grateful when clients have the courage to reach out, and when they find an organization I know will treat them with respect and dignity.

    I am grateful when immediate services are designed and delivered to strengthen people and communities in the long term, as well as giving whatever crisis care they may need.

    I am grateful that clients facing severe difficulties put my pains and problems in perspective, and make me give thanks for my own wonderful life.

    If our organizations do our job well, and this type of client no longer needs our services, I will be grateful for the time that frees up for all our volunteers and clients to live fulfilling lives, with whatever arts, physical activity, socializing, family time, creative passions and celebrations they desire.