Visiting my local Kmart store during late night shopping I came across a scenario of gratitude in action between a young employee (observations this lass was approx. 16 years of age) and a lady putting clothing back on hangers and then onto a rack. Whilst waiting in line for my turn in the change room, I overheard their conversation. The teen was thanking the lady for her help with placing the articles back on hangers. The teen mentioned she was under extra pressure with her workload due to the Christmas trade and increase in customers. The lady smiled and said she did not mind helping out whilst she was waiting for her daughter to try on the clothes she was thinking of purchasing.
When the daughter had finished trying on clothes she came out to her mum with a pile of clothes in her hands and an armful of hangers. The teen placed them on the counter and was about to leave when her mum said “Come on, help this poor young lady out, she is very busy and you are capable of putting clothes back on a hanger.” The young employee looked at the mother and said with a smile “Thank you so much for helping me” and her body language reflected same.
This got me thinking, how did the young employee come to recognise the offer from the mother to help in the change room as one of gratitude?
In their research of developing gratitude in the lives of children, Froh & Bono (2014) encourage the development children’s cognitive awareness during social exchanges and the benefits children may experience in their everyday lives.
People feel grateful when they acknowledge receiving an intentional act of kindness from a benefactor,” the researchers write. “Specifically, they experience gratitude in response to benefits that (a) they perceive as valuable to them, (b) were provided intentionally and altruistically (rather than for ulterior motives), and (c) were costly to the benefactor.
In the case of the young employee the formula is applied:
- Young employee recognises the benefit of reduced work load and possibility of completing the task on time.
- Mother offered assistance hanging clothes on the hangers.
- Mother got no $ reward for her efforts, gave up own personal time to benefit the young employee.
Froh, J. and Giacomo, B (2014, p. 4). state “Gratitude helps forge individual’s character by aligning their actions with their moral feelings and beliefs in the short run and their social relationships with their goals and ultimate concerns in the long run.” The communication between the young employee and the mother broke immediate barriers creating a brief sense of bond with common intention. The interaction would have supported the teen’s emotional wellbeing, beliefs in helping others and brought an opportunity for the teen to reflect on this moment of kindness and its benefits of doing same in her future, should opportunity arise.
Dawson’s article “The key to a Happy Life? Gratitude that Goes beyond Thanksgiving discusses ten reasons why the cultivation of gratitude is beneficial. Three of the dot points come to mind when I think of this article that reminds me of the above mentioned scenario are:
- Gratitude empowers you – I could see the confidence of the young employee to communicate with a person she had never met, discuss and objective and define and outcome all within a very short period of time. The young employee had confidence to initiate this when opportunity was presented.
- Fosters a sense of community – With the empowerment, the encouragement of the mother, the young employee worked together as a team to complete the stated goal. A sense of networking was created.
- Increases life satisfaction for kids – This experience will benefit that young employee in her future. She too may offer to help someone when she identifies a need in a situation and offer with integrity and compassion knowing it will help another.
From an outsider looking in, the simple act of kindness demonstrated from the mother to the young employee gave me a chance to observe gratitude in action. On a personal level this observation provided me with a sense of connectedness towards another, has upheld my feelings of faith in our community that we are willing to help another without seeking reward. My own piece of gratitude 🙂