When I was a little kid, we would go visit my grandparents in Costa Rica every so often. My mom would always bring my Grandpa gifts of cashews, black licorice, and animal-printed underwear. It was my understanding that during that time, these items were hard to find there.
In my late teens, I would visit partially to see them, but also because it was a pretty cheap vacation since I only had to pay for the flight and had a place to stay and free meals and… paradise.
Not one to let down my grandpa, I continued the tradition of bringing him gifts of cashews and licorice whips (but managed to leave out the zany underwear).
But I also love to prank people… or really to perform a social experiment which is meant to elicit a reaction. You can usually guess what people will feel, the fun part is in how they display it.
For this trick, I had purchased two containers of cashews, one a very small, cheap, off-brand can and larger stately Planters version, with all the branding and accoutrements.
With the generic version, I ate enough of the cashews that you could see the bottom of the container, and when he picked me up at the airport I mentioned off-handedly that I was really hungry on the flight and might have had a few.
Once I gave him the remains of the half-eaten container, he told me thanks and started happily snacking.
Not the response I had hoped for… at all.
Deflated, I mumbled that the can was a joke and presented the actual one. He thanked me again identically as he had the first time.
This whole scenario has stuck with me for years, not because my prank was foiled, but because of why it didn’t work.
My Grandpa was oblivious to the fact that he had been handed a half-eaten can of nuts and felt only the appreciation of having received it. After getting a full can, he didn’t realize that he had been duped and then we would share a laugh…
He was just thinking, “Oh cool, more cashews!”
He might have been hungry and a little distracted thinking about beating traffic, I don’t know. However, I don’t feel that was the case.
But that interaction really impressed upon me that whatever life gives you, show some gratitude. You might get a gift that was not what you were hoping for, but it doesn’t hurt to be thankful and regift. It might also help to not have the expectation that you are entitled to be given anything in the first place.
When I look back at the times when I have lacked that spirit of being grateful, I think, I have been at my worst. Thinking I earned or deserved more than I was given.
However, those times when I have lived up to that ideal, I know I have been at my best.