The topic of gratitude came up in one of our sutra class discussions. As an immigrant, I too greatly benefitted from the kindness of this great country. The generosity ranges from free ESL classes to subsidized job training, rental allowances to transportation subsidies, etc …
It’s wonderful because it allows the newcomers the chance to preserve their dignity and time to be able to stand on their feet and fully participate in realizing their own American dream.
Over time, this system has worked very well. So well that many first generation immigrants became very successful financially. A few would remember the country’s past support and kindness and would make it a point to give back. The overwhelming majority conveniently forget the initial welfare support as if it’s their god-given right.
My Caucasian students commented that it does not matter because that’s how the system works. The people of this country still give and expect nothing in return.
I beg to differ. It may not matter to the giver but it definitely should matter to the beneficiaries. They should be grateful for the many gifts and so much kindness. Gratitude is what differentiates us from the animal realm. You don’t repay kindness by pilfering the system through tax evasions and other similar destructive behaviors.
Furthermore, the person who has no gratitude knows no happiness. Such people are very lonely and have no clue as to why so! Happiness is a human condition reserved for those who qualify as decent human beings.
From a spiritual perspective, to accept someone kindness can be considered to get into debt. If we don’t repay the debt quickly, it tends to accrue interests. If we’re not careful, sometimes the interest charges and collection fees can far exceed the original loan!
It would be wise to quickly repay if we can.
When most people focus on the financial amounts, they tend to overlook the intangibles. For example, in the case of the aid to the immigrants, the debt has two parts: financial and kindness.
Kindness debts must be repaid with kindness. That means giving back to society, protecting it and improving it, not destroying it for the sake of personal gains.
While it is important to try to quickly repay our benefactors. It would be counterproductive and narrow minded to be overly obsessive about repaying the specific individuals to settle the debts.
Can’t we simply be good? I mean can we do good for everyone? That would seem to be the original purport of the system.
Let’s be good. Let’s help others and expect nothing in return.