The CEO of the corporation I was working for had agreed to be part of some prestigious national commission, and needed to have a staff person assigned who could do research, assemble reports, write speeches, and basically “staff” the CEO on the project. It would be a six-month assignment.
The search immediately focused on the speechwriting team – three of us who wrote for a dozen executives, did issue papers, prepared the quarterly financial reports, and generally any other kind of writing project the executives needed. (In addition to speeches, it fell to me to write the quarterly reports, a few issue papers, and the chairman’s annual United Way message to employees.)
One of my colleagues was chosen for the CEO’s assignment. He was even physically moved to an office in the executive building. The six months actually was closer to eight. His normal work – a full-time job – was given to the two of us who remained. Most of that extra work fell to me.
The special project came to an end, and our colleague returned. Two or three weeks later, the entire department was called into a meeting, where my colleague received a special recognition for the work he had done for the CEO, i.e., a special bonus check.
For the two of us who had carried the load of the department, who had picked up the extra work, there was – not even an acknowledgement.
This is not unusual in corporate America, then or now. Gratitude always seems to be in scarce supply. Had we not done what we did, our supervisors would have had a major mess on their hands. As it was, no one said a word. I was disappointed. My other colleague was furious, and went to the head of the department. Nothing came of that, however.
Gratitude is always in short supply.
I’m not sure why. Thanking someone is not a big deal. Even recognizing good work should not be a big deal. But it is.
In Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, Christopher Smith, John Pattison and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove say this scarcity of gratitude comes from forgetfulness, a kind of national or cultural affliction. I suspect it also comes from the disconnect between the blessings we enjoy in our lives and understanding who the source of those blessings is. We like to think of ourselves as doing it all on our own, but that’s rarely if ever true.
But there’s something worse, the authors say. “Gratitude is perhaps the most important way we practice recognizing the enough all around us. If lack is the root of injustice, than gratitude is the root of justice.”
This seeming inability to express gratitude, this national, cultural and individual forgetfulness, plays havoc in our lives. We can do better.
For the past several Mondays, I’ve been discussing Slow Church. This week’s discussion is about the chapter entitled “Gratitude.” Next week, the discussion will be on “Hospitality.”
Photograph by Anna Langova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.