Comment: time to put gratitude into perspective

Comment: time to put gratitude into perspective

Comment: time to put gratitude into perspective

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by

Have you ever noticed how people with really big things to contend with - a desperately sick child or bankruptcy - say very little about their misfortunes, while those with relatively few things to complain about are often the most grumpy and least grateful for what they do have?
I know any parent of healthy, loved and well-fed teenagers will back me up here. 

We love our children to bits, but let’s be honest, they rob us of our sleep, our sanity, our free time and our money (and our figures and our careers if we’re women) and are they grateful? 

Not remotely.

No matter how many times you remind your children how lucky they are to have visited more countries by the time they reach secondary school than their grandparents saw in a lifetime, or that when we were their age, ice cream came in just three flavours (vanilla, chocolate and raspberry ripple, remember?), they always complain how hard done by they are.

Tell them how long it took to get to school via public transport during the endless strikes of the 1970s and all they do is moan that our Vauxhall isn’t as big as the Chelsea tractor their friends’ parents drive.

Point out my parents had one bathroom and we are fortunate enough to have two and they ask why we don’t have a Jacuzzi like the girl down the road.    

Ask my children how much they enjoyed the French holidays we have had and what do they do? 
Make me feel guilty by snarling that unlike every other child in their class, Mum, they haven’t been to EuroDisney, that’s what. 

Try telling them that when we were young, our mums escorted us to C & A and told us what we looked good in, while they get to choose their own outfits from the entire intu centre, and my kids just roll their eyes and, as if I’m not there, look at each other knowingly and say "isn’t it?" 
("Isn’t what?" I ask, or at least I used to, until I worked out that this is the modern adolescent’s stock answer to an unvoiced question, a question which I know without asking, is critical and directed at me, something along the lines of  "pathetic, isn’t she?")

I used to console myself that negativity and lack of appreciation are things children grow out of once they have to wash their own clothes, cook their own meals and pay their own bills - and discover they don’t know everything after all.

However, I am beginning to wonder if ingratitude is ingrained in some people. 

You see, I was gobsmacked to be shown an indignant email sent to my neighbours, who run a support group for FOPS (Friends of Prostate Sufferers). 

My incredibly hospitable next-door-neighbours open their home every month for a social evening aimed at men with prostate cancer and their wives and girlfriends. 

They never quite know who will turn up, but they offer wine, advice and compassion to whoever arrives at their door. 

They also gave up their free time recently to man the FOPS tent, sponsored by Macmillan Cancer Support, at Croxley Revels. 

From what I saw, the tent was full of joy and goodwill, especially when two men dropped in to say thank you; as a direct result of meeting FOPS at last year’s Ricky Festival, both men went for a test and discovered, in the nick of time, that they are in the early stages of prostate cancer, one after his GP had told him he didn’t need a test. 

They are now receiving treatment that could well save their lives.

It was a wonderful moment for FOPS and made all their hard work worthwhile, so imagine how my neighbours and their fellow volunteers felt when they received an email from a man describing his "horror" that anyone could have "the gall to be advertising this subject at an event that is all about having fun".  

Well, Mr Angry ("Croxley resident for over 40 years"), I just hope you are never presented with a late cancer diagnosis for yourself or for someone you love. 
Then you really would know what "horror" is. 

You really feel you’ve made it in life when you buy your first (used) car, get the keys to your first (shoebox) flat and when you are asked to judge a competition.

Just as my fellow columnist Adam Parsons was thrilled to be asked to judge the Watford Observer Young Sports Writer of the Year competition (see last week’s edition) I was touched and honoured to be asked to help judge a public-speaking competition at Christ Church Primary School in Chorleywood.

The eight and nine-year-old pupils (pictured) had been learning about different types of public speaking. 

They looked at wedding speeches, motivational speeches and persuasive speeches and were then asked to choose a topic, research it, write it and rehearse it at home, before delivering it at school before three judges, of whom I was one. 

I am delighted to say that without exception, the speeches were imaginative, funny, full of interesting facts and figures and confidently delivered.  

I have even kept a list of the children’s names because I am absolutely convinced some of them will go on to become leading actors, politicians or comedians.

When I'm an old lady, I’ll be proud to unearth that list and boast by helping to judge that competition, I played a small part in sending those children on their way.     

And you know what, I will be extremely grateful to have had that privilege.

For more details about Friends of Prostate Sufferers, visit www.thefops.org.uk.

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