One of the fascinating things about living in Japan is the way in which civility within close knit groups, and especially within families, is maintained in the face of adversity.
Case in point: we had a number of medical issues in 2016 requiring hospital stays and bills and time for recuperation. Family assistance with domestic chores such as looking after our ailing pooch was very much appreciated.
But in addition to donating their time and energy, they also contributed small monetary gifts to help offset the costs – and each according to what they could afford. Likewise, when things got back to normal in our household we gave small ‘thank you’ presents to show our gratitude for their kindness.
Then, just a few weeks ago, one of the family members who helped us suffered a bad fall and smashed up an elbow, necessitating a week in hospital. And guess what? Our assistance to him was gratefully acknowledged with a return gift of craft beers that he knows I enjoy. Three of those beers can be seen in the photo.
To an outsider, this to-and-fro of monetary assistance might seem like a rather bizarre zero-sum game and while it’s true that the cash exchanges net out, the accumulations of gratitude and endearment are most definitely beyond a simple bookkeeping entry. It comes down to understanding that family has your back and will do their best to see you right.
I suppose that evolutionary psychology can see significant survival advantages in this type of altruistic behavior, even if to many participants the ‘obligatory’ nature of the custom can sometimes be inconvenient and tiring. For example, the preparation and handing over of suitable amounts of clean, crisp notes in the appropriate envelopes is an exercise itself in planning, patience and decorum.
These small acts of kindness always leave me filled with gratitude. And when I think about them later from a self-coaching perspective, it’s clear that the cultivation and practice of gratitude is a skill well worth developing. Because the reverse, that of taking people and circumstances for granted, is just a lazy, limiting way out of accepting shared responsibility for a greater good. And, in my life experience, laziness is definitely not a trait that makes achieving a big goal any easier. (I am aware that dysfunctions within groups can sometimes negate these advantages. Even so, I think it’s important to develop an attitude of gratitude wherever and whenever opportunities present themselves.)
Gratitude for my Readers:
As a writer, I’m grateful to all readers of my books because I know they have many choices of what to read, watch and listen to these days. And that’s why I will be offering a small token of appreciation in my next email to subscribers. Look for the email to arrive sometime on February 7th, Tuesday.
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