Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. ~G.B. Stern
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” -Johannes A. Gaertner (1912-1996) Art History Professor, Theologian, Poet
“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” -Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Philosopher, Mathematician
appreciation [əˌpriːʃɪˈeɪʃən -sɪ-] noun
1. thanks or gratitude
2. assessment of the true worth or value of persons or things
Not long ago, a wise friend wrote a spontaneous comment to me about the expat experience. She, too, had been an American who had lived for an extended period of time outside the United States. And she, too, had moved back to the United States recently with her family. I have thought about and repeated what she said many times over the past few weeks, as I and my family transition from our almost 4 years of living abroad in the Czech Republic. What she said was this:
“The best thing about being an expat is the appreciation you have for everything when you return.”
I might only be able to add, with emphasis and bold letters, to the word EVERYTHING. Because that’s what it really is: I appreciate EVERYTHING.
It’s funny. I don’t think I ever realized just how much I would appreciate home until I’ve returned. The most basic things are the things I am most profoundly grateful for, for instance:
- Safety and security: i.e.: that there aren’t mafia men in trench coats on 24-hour stake-out on my street for over a month straight (truth about the end of my time in Prague)
- Security: 911 and the ability to get help if and when we need it
- Public benefits: lines to mark the middle and edges of roads, shoulders on roads, snowplows, on-ramps and off-ramps
- Consumer: uh, this one is impossible to depict the reality in former Soviet countries, but the shopping experience is completely opposite of what I enjoy
- Public and professional behavior and demeanor: service, warmth, smiles, kind words and deeds
- Family needs: a GYM! With safe courts. For my active family, it’s amazing being here.
- Personal smiles: a refrigerator bigger than my Prague dorm-sized fridge (for my family of 5)
- Frivolous: Ice in drinks, free water at restaurants
I do believe it is true that we are most at home in the places from which we were born and raised. We become accustomed to the way things work and how we perform our daily lives, and when things are different, we feel uncomfortable. The discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Obviously, it’s good in the best way, for how else do we fully come to understand and appreciate what we have?
What have you recently noticed you are most grateful for?