A great friend of mine recently left a lucrative job because the person they were working for was “ungrateful, unreasonable, and unfair.” That first word, “ungrateful”, caught my attention. What is so important about gratitude, and why do we find the lack of it so distasteful?
We just observed the Fourth of July, Independence Day as it is officially known. While observances of the United States declaration of independence on July 4, 1776, were held the very next year, Congress didn’t declare the date an official holiday until 1870 and didn’t make it a paid federal holiday until 1938.
It was against a tyrannical and unrepresentative form of government that the founding fathers led our nation in the move to independence. The men and women who offered their fortunes and their lives to secure the freedom we now enjoy were just people. They did some great things, but they were just as flawed and imperfect as you and me. The nation they created is also a great thing, flawed and imperfect, but wonderful and full of promise, just like you and me.
It is easy to tear a thing apart. It is much harder to work to make it better. As leaders, we must demonstrate grateful vigilance. Both are hard things. Together they are much harder.
Gratefulness is a gift. Gratefulness allows you to feel alive and in wonder. Gratefulness allows you to live longer, inspire others, experience joy, hold pain and grief with compassion, and deepen love, generosity, and respect for all life. What are you grateful for in your life today?
I’m grateful that I am blessed to live in one of the few free countries in the world. According to Freedom House, less than 20% of the global population lives in a free country. Although the US accounts for about 4.2% of the world’s population, we make up more than 20% of the free people in the world today. That freedom affords me the right to work where I wish, travel as I please, and say what I want (even if it is in opposition to the very country that provides the freedom to say it). Even better, I don’t have to worry about being taken from my bed in the middle of the night by my own government or arrested at a checkpoint and never seen again.
Gratefulness is a gift, but it is also a responsibility. Without gratefulness, we don’t just miss out on life and wonder and inspiration, we become spoiled and petulant and entitled. We start turning our backs on the very community that gave us all we have. Without gratefulness, we lose the respect and participation of those around us. They quit us like my friend quit that job. Gratefulness is a responsibility.
Vigilance is also a gift. Vigilance is the service we are privileged to give for freedom. Vigilance transcends color, gender, or age. Vigilance must be generational. In his spoken introduction to the 1956 CBS Radio Workshop adaptation of his novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley said,
The price of liberty, and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance.
Being grateful doesn’t mean we can’t be vigilant. Being content does not mean being complacent. We can respect and love what we have while we work and long for even better. Many things have changed over the years through the vigilant effort of everyone who calls Kimray their home. It is by continuous improvement that we achieve our dreams, not by tearing down what we already have.
In Brave New World, we find a dystopian society challenged only by a single individual. The disturbing and totalitarian behavior of the community is accepted by everyone, and they comply without question or concern. This is an inevitable result if we stop striving, stop caring, stop trying. Vigilance is our duty.
I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday with family and friends. I hope at some point in your celebrating you took a moment to think about all you have to be grateful for. I also hope you are ready and willing to continue looking for ways to make our company, our city, our state, and our nation better each and every day. None of us are perfect and the communities we build will not be either, but they are full of wonder and promise. Grateful vigilance is the key to loving what we have while we work together for something better, and it is the Kimray Way.