5 Short Notes on Gratitude



When I wasn’t getting extorted or doing drugs in Yemen, I enjoyed touring around with my fixer.

Several times, I noticed that when we passed a beggar on the street, he took a small amount of money from his pocket and gave it to them.

Observing this behavior caused me to think. I’m supposed to give to the poor, but do I really?

Most of the time when I hear of people who are in need, I don’t do anything. Sometimes I try not to look at them if I’m passing by on the street, to avoid the likelihood that they will ask for money and I’ll turn them down.

Sure, I give a percentage of my money to Charity:Water and other good causes, but I don’t really miss the money I give. The funds are automatically transferred through the electronic ether. I see a number that goes out from my bank account, but the number that comes in is far greater.

What real sacrifice am I making? I can’t think of anything, so I resolve to think about this more.


A few people said last week that gratitude is a good response to melancholy. I agree.

If you start feeling sorry for yourself when everything is going well, better start making lists and expressing thanks.

For what are you grateful?

To whom are you thankful?

The other part is to make sure you’re not just focusing on yourself—that’s where the action part comes in.


See this note from Jonathan Fields on his unconventional email signature.

I think the point is to be a) mindful, and b) considerate of others.


I first heard Rumer on a long Cathay Pacific flight from New York to Hong Kong. I listened to Thankful over and over last year.

I hadn’t heard it in a while, so I was glad when it came up in shuffle mode while I was pondering these things.


On the way home, I stopped off in Frankfurt for 36 hours. I could have stayed only one night, but I needed to catch up on my running. I’ll be running hobbling through the Chicago Marathon in October, and I’m behind in what most people call “training.”

Therefore I stayed an extra day, and that morning I ran I ran 18 miles along the river. I kept going and going and ended up outside of Frankfurt and in a place I had never been. Wow. Funny how that happens—run nine miles in one direction and you end up in a different city.

The first 12 miles were nice; the next 6 were TOUGH.

During the good part of the run I thought about the questions. For what am I truly grateful? To whom am I thankful?

It was a long list.


Remember: we are searching for meaning in a world of superficiality.

I do believe that gratitude is a good response to melancholy. Even if it doesn’t solve the whole problem, at least it gives you someone to focus on besides yourself.

What are you grateful for today? What are you doing about it?

Feel free to share.


Image: Penelope

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  • Terri says:

    I’m thankful for nourishment and good health, for all that creation provides to offer us health and healing. I’m so thankful for family, good parents, a wonderful husband and three terrific boys who are growing up to be men of integrity and grace. Most of all I’m thankful to God who created all this for us and who loved us enough to sacrifice so that we could start anew when we fail. Giving does cost and I think if we feel it a little we’ll appreciate it more.

    I’m thankful for this thoughtful reminder to be thankful and to give sacrificially.

  • Andrea says:

    I was just re-reading a blog post I wrote right after WDS about how I felt like I received a new layer of permission to do things how I want to do things. And I decided I wanted to grow my business not bigger, but deeper, truer and sparklier. Then I set out to figure out what that meant.

    In the last month I have made lots of big changes in my business. I’m grateful for the freedom I have to make those changes, for the inspiration I received at WDS and most of all for my amazing clients and students for trusting me. It’s scary to change things, knowing that I had their trust made it a lot easier. Super grateful.

  • Christina says:

    I’m grateful I found you & your work! I’ve been following you since last November, and since then have been working on starting my own business (while still working a full-time job). You said in your interview with Marie Forleo that you think people come to your work when they’re in a place of change – I was, and now I’m striving towards the goal of freedom, working to build my own business and provide value for others. You’ve provided a lot of value and inspiration for me, and for that I am grateful. How wonderful to have the freedom to just take an extra day in Frankfurt just to get some running in! Hopefully some day soon I’ll have that freedom, too. 🙂

  • Amber says:

    I am thankful for a loving husband who supports me fully even when I make a whopper of a mistake.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    #2 really hits home. I have been finding myself complaining and getting annoyed a lot lately and then realizing I have so much to be thankful for that my tiny complaints are ridiculous.

    I am grateful that I have such supportive people in my life, and I am acting on an idea I had several weeks ago to do a “Thank Your Postcard Campaign.”

  • Jon R says:

    When I was poor  I  always thought it  would be easy to give money to a needy person  asking for help.  When  I had more  money  I found ‘reasons’ not to give. I didnt want to be conned by lazy people; I didn’t want  my money being used to buy  cigarettes or alcohol etc etc, and the exchange always felt a little awkward to me. When  I was low on money again,  the excuses changed back to “I don’t have enough to give.”

     I don’t know why it’s so hard for most people to give.  In my case, I think  its  partly caused by not ever learning how to give or receive.  It’s hard to feel gratitude if it doesn’t feel  good receiving. And by not knowing how to set  limits to Giving without feeling guilty or overwhelmed,  it’s easier to find excuses not to give.

    After reading this post  I can at least plan  to take some  money with me  everyday just for giving.That must be what the fixer did.

  • Bastiaan Reinink says:

    Is it necessary to make sacrifices? In my view, a sacrifice means “giving up something good to get something better”. What “better” things are you looking for? Of course, if you can find them through giving that is perfect. But you can give away many things without being any poorer yourself (which you do very well through your sharing of your thoughts).

  • Jonathan says:

    While I do believe that we should be grateful and giving to others, I have to disagree at times when giving to the poor. Hear me out here, I’m not talking about those people who truly need help, I’m talking about those who use it to their advantage. I live in Las Vegas, and in an area that specializes in pan handling. I swear I see the same guy on the corner, waiting at the light asking for money day in and day out. I stopped giving him money, I’m not going to support you, I’m trying to do a good deed. I do remember one special time in which one guy was waiting at a stoplight near the highway with a huge sign that said “I only need $11 for a bus ride home to California”. The guy had a pack and looked like he was well on his way. I gave him the $11 he needed and he was so grateful. He quickly packed up all his stuff and said he was going to California. It was great to help someone that would actually do good with the money, rather than hoping that someone would support their lifestyle.
    I feel grateful for what I have, and often times when I feel down I read a story about someone overcoming the odds and it puts things into perspective.

  • Richard says:

    I started this year really trying to focus on gratitude, it was actually my first post of the year and I have been working to figure out. I started doing what Sean Anchor recommended in his TED talk, writing down 3 things every day I am grateful for. I have been telling everybody about this. I really feel like it helps me stop, evaluate my day, take a look back and see how much I do have to be grateful for. So much so that I do 5 almost every day. Gratitude can be so much easier to focus on.

  • Jo says:

    I am, of course, grateful for all the normal things – my family etc. I’ve got to be one of the luckiest people in the entire world and I just don’t appreciate it enough.

    But following my big day yesterday, getting my free e-book out into the world, I’m grateful to myself for daring to do that. I was terrified about what my friends would think but my blog and e-book are out there now and that’s because I dared.

    Why did I dare? Because I know that there are people out there living the kind of life that I want. If they can do it, I can do it. AONC is a huge part of the reason for that. So I’m grateful that you wrote it and that I found it. Thank you.

  • Benny says:

    When I think about what to be grateful for, I think of the small things. Like being able to walk. Waking up in the morning without pain. Having a roof over my head. Things that we usually take for granted.

    I did a gratitude journal last year and found it really helped change my attitude and made me feel better. I focused on the big things and the small things.

    So I developed an iPhone app at Just released this week. People always have their iPhones with them, so taking it out and writing down what they’re thankful for it easier.

    I’m thankful for the support I’ve gotten this week from everyone. Been amazing.

  • Sebastian Lora says:

    I’m thankful for having found my passion and for having found people who live off theirs. That’s inspiring and is helping me follow mine.

  • Slackerjo says:

    I think of WWII and realize, everything I deal in 2012 with is irrelevant.

  • Dave says:

    I moved to Australia a year ago & immediately thee myself into triathlon to give myself a challenge. I certainly got that but I also got to meet an amazing group of people all through New Sourh Wales who constantly have me advice, help & endless encouragement.

    I’ve now started volunteering at races to help setup, marshall etc & it’s even more rewardIng than I expected. It’s a cliche but it’s true that helping others is its own reward & fOr me has deepened my understanding of my sport & increased the nature of the relationships with the people I’ve already met.


  • Widist Clay says:

    Gratitude is something that gives me so much in life. I regularly thank the Universe for Its gifts.

    I grew up an at-risk youth and know how fortunate I am that I at least had a loving mom to support me through my teenage angst. I now coach high-risk young offenders to help them break the cycle of recidivism and develop a sense of hope and personal resilience that many never experience.

    I’m very grateful for those who stood by me while I was living life at the dangerous fringes for so long. I’m where I am today because of their unconditional love and support.

    Great post Chris! We as individuals and as a species can never foster too much gratitude 🙂

  • Medina says:

    Wow, just found you via Marie Forleo, got to say you are shining through with some real sincere light. More power to you. I grew up in a Sufi background and there is a lot about patience (in difficult times) and gratitude (in good times). I reckon they are the cornerstones of a happy outlook. I know a lot of people who are stuck in a victim mentality and all they do is grind themselves deeper into a hole. Gratitude frees you from that. Even when things are tough, there’s always a purpose to it; it’s just the Divine rubbing away the rust from your mirror. Like the old folks say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. I’m grateful to have read your article =)

  • nearnthere says:

    Grateful for being who I am today. When I look back, i realize that things could have turned out much different, so I am grateful. Grateful for those who helped me along the way, often without expecting anything in return.

  • Gina Barre says:


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