Gratitude implies thankfulness or an appreciation of benefits conferred together with a desire, when practicable, to return those benefits.
It should be distinguished from thanks, which is too often a matter of words, and not accompanied by a feeling of thankfulness or by those actions which indicate a grateful mind. The grateful man feels joy at the kindness of his benefactor and cultivates a respect that is akin to love.
In almost all the relations of ordinary life the feelings of gratitude should be aroused. The child owes thanks to his parents for food, clothes, education and tender care; the scholar to his teachers for the training of his intelligence; personal friends to one another for mutual services.
The frequent use of the phrase, “Thank you,” though often not more than a polite convention, nevertheless shows the universal belief in the necessity for cultivating a grateful attitude towards those who do something for us, however small that service be.
The man who stops another in the streets of a town to ask his way, would be considered a mean and ill-conditioned fellow if he passed without a word of thanks.
As citizens, there are few who have not cause to be grateful. Great generals who have given devoted service gratuitously, statesmen, poets and philosophers, all those who have stood for right, justice and freedom of thought, have conferred inestimable benefits upon their countrymen.
In almost every town can be found public institutions, schools, hospitals and charities established and supported by the munificence of private individuals for the benefit of the public.
Gratitude expresses itself in looks, words and deeds. The poor soldier, to whom Sir Philip Sydney on the field of Zutphen gave his cup of water, could only look his gratitude.
When deeds are impossible, the expression of thanks is the best that can be done. The inscriptions on the tombs and monuments erected by a nation to its great men are an expression of thanks in words. As for deeds, an old story will serve as an excellent illustration.
An old man was found planting fruit trees by a friend who came to him and said, “Why do you plant trees which can never produce fruit in your time?” The old man replied, “Others planted trees, the fruit of which I enjoy. I now plant trees that those who come after may enjoy fruit.”
In conclusion, a word should be said about the baseness of ingratitude, which causes a man to be despised by his fellows and often brings its own punishments, insomuch as even the kind- hearted grow tired of conferring favours upon those who show no appreciation of such favours.
No good man wishes to give pain, especially to those who have done him good. The ungrateful man hurts the feelings of his benefactor and cannot, therefore, be a good man.
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