Learning gratefulness

June 23, 2014

By reading an online comic.


Gratitude, mindfulness and awareness are the new trendy buzzwords of the self improvement, on every 10 Steps to Be a Better Human articles and endless unidirectional blocks of text that teach you the secrets and promises on how to be a better you. Blocks of text that you’ll scan, make you nod in agreement, and forget about them the next day.

We read the words, acknowledge that they make sense. And yet we take very little action on them, or no action at all.

“Be grateful.”

— Okay! done.

How often to we practice active gratitude, though? How often do we remember to write a text, an email, call someone, whatever it may be, and tell them why we’re grateful for what they’ve done to us?

Here’s what I did today.

I was never a big comics fan, but a while ago I discovered the brilliant work of Yale Stewart’s JL8, an unbelievably funny comic that re-imagines our fantasy super heroes as school mates. Mind you, I was never a big fan of comics, but the innocence and childlike thoughts of this comic amuse me almost as much as Calvin & Hobbes did years ago. For a while now, I’ve been really enjoying this comic. And during this stretch of time, I never actually thought about who was writing it. Who was the man behind these brilliant pieces of work? Where did these ideas come from? Wait, is he really a man? Maybe he’s a she! Crap, I don’t even know.

I was so immersed in this spectator world, like a kid hooked up on television, braindead. I was so used to being an average consumer that despite the fact that I was having the time of my life reading these comics, I didn’t bother to think about the human soul who’s setting aside time of his life, probably everyday, out of a likely busy schedule to produce such joyful strips.

So I tracked him down, which took literally about fifteen seconds, and sent him a message. I made sure I explained why I found his comic so brilliant, and thanked him for his effort and relentless pursuit of creativity perfection on this comic.

Saying “hey, thank you for your efforts on doing this” makes a difference.

Why? Because we’re getting to used to being spectators in a world where everyone else is doing something. We see people creating things that we use all the time, more than ten times a day, maybe. We take them for granted because there’s this whole other side that we’re not part of, due to the fact that everyone else is a doer and we’re right here being a consumer, nodding, commenting to ourselves and judging why this is useful and that isn’t.

So if you really want to practice gratitude, begin by taking your thoughts out of your limited attention span and vocalize it as loud as you can. Make yourself heard and you’ll be responsible for a genuine smile of appreciation on that other side of the wall. Stop making the wall thicker and thicker.

I wonder who I’ll drop a few words of appreciation to tomorrow. I literally can not wait.

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Written by Ricardo Magalhães who works for the Internet. By day, a front-end web developer with a passion for typography and design. By night, he sleeps. Follow me on Mastodon.