October 5, 2012
Gratitude by Craig Schloneger
Over the past two years, my wife Ann and I had been planning a trip to take our three children to visit Swaziland, Africa. Swaziland holds a special place for us as we had lived there for three years while doing voluntary service with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Our oldest son was born in Swaziland and we wanted to show him his birthplace. This was a big trip for us, involving much planning, finding former friends and a large investment of money. It had been 20 years since we lived there and we wanted everything to go well. This past June we left on our two week adventure.
Everything went as planned – our accommodations were in order, no one got sick, and we were able to reconnect with many Swazi friends from years ago. It was fascinating to visit a place that we hadn’t seen for so long. We were surprised at the changes – cell phones everywhere, a major highway and a large shopping mall. We were also disappointed that some of the difficulties in life persisted – women carry water on their heads, mud and stick houses, and many signs of poverty. I wondered what our children would take from this experience.
It was on our visit to the most rural part of Swaziland that we reconnected with our good friend Gladys. Despite experiencing so much hardship in her daily life, Gladys overflows with upbeat, positive energy and is extremely grateful for all things. During our trip we visited many attractions and enjoyed incredible experiences, but it was Gladys’ personality and disposition that left a lasting impression on our children – one which they still talk about today.
W.K. Chesterton, a remarkable author, believes that the most critical factor in life is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. This is true in poverty and in wealth. Thankfulness for the many good things and people around us is contagious and generates an atmosphere of appreciation. As leaders we have the opportunity and responsibility to positively impact others through gratitude – in our organizations, at home, at social events and in public places. On a recent visit to a client, a staff member remarked how much she values her work because the owner shows so much appreciation. It is a great reminder: when considering strategies of how to motivate and engage employees, a simple ‘thank you’ can achieve so much.
Our family enjoyed a great trip, one filled with many memories, but none greater than Gladys’ spirit of gratitude.