Looking back: The difference between bragging and gratitude

Being grateful

The past few weeks I have spent helping my 84-year-old father clean out the house he has lived in for 35 years. I found some things that brought me back to memories of my grandmother’s farmhouse and my dad’s real estate office. So this month’s Looking Back message is about how days visiting houses with my dad taught me a valuable life lesson. It is hard to see your parents aging, but with my mother out of the hospital and rehab, I am feeling grateful…

When I was growing up, my dad, a real estate agent, would go to houses and take Polaroids for the listings, and my sister and I would be bored in the back seat.

I give him credit, he tried to make it fun by quizzing us about the type of house it was and how we knew.

Is that house a tutor or Victorian?

What’s the difference between split level and bi-level?

Some kids learn about the stars or cars. I learned about houses. And I never forgot.

Once I moved into a house, I found myself staring at other houses as I drove around. I think about what I like and don’t like about them and compare them to the house that I have.

And when I say I think, what I really mean is I say out loud whatever I am thinking to whoever is in the car with me.

I guess my husband wasn’t loving that and accusingly asked, “Why do you do that?”

His reaction caught me off guard. My confusion started a conversation that made me realize he thought I was bragging, and putting down the other houses in comparison to my own. I had no idea that was how he took it. I was honestly shocked.

I told him that I never expected to have a house like we have, never expected to have the life we have. I am so grateful.

I reminded him that the house I grew up in had rooms with no furniture because my resourceful mom would sell it to cover the mortgage or other expenses. Most of the furniture we did have was from the side of the road or goodwill. He nodded knowing she still loves to shop the “sidewalk sale.”

When I’m looking at other houses and comparing them to mine, I explained, it wasn’t intended as bragging. It was my way of practicing gratitude for what I have.

He got it. And he took in my habit completely differently after that. Not everyone will give you the chance to explain, often they just judge. It was a valuable lesson for me to be aware of how it might be received by others.

How do you practice gratitude?

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