Share this blog:

If I have learned anything as a widow, it is the importance of living life in gratitude mode—being thankful for all that was and is and is to come. Generosity flows from a grateful heart. My mother-in-law and my husband were the two most generous people I have ever known. They truly understood the joy of giving.

Nantucket Philanthropy

One of the things I first noticed about Nantucket is the philanthropy—the giving spirit of the summer residents. This is not the place for those with a sense of entitlement. People here are grateful for this beautiful, unique place and they respect its fragile eco-system. They regard themselves as stewards of the land and of history.

This year I consciously chose to be here the busiest two weeks of summer—when the island is packed with people…and with charitable events. Last week my daughter and granddaughter joined me for a whole round of events benefiting the local historical association.

Darling Street gardenWednesday my friends and I stumbled upon a home and garden tour sponsored by the local garden club to raise money for scholarships. Generous summer residents, including New York interior designer Susan Zises Green, allowed a horde of strangers to wander through their private homes.

This evening I will stroll through one of the historic waterfront communities of the island to benefit the Preservation Trust, and Saturday we will join 7,000 others at the beach to hear the Boston Pops. Summer resident and news commentator David Gregory will donate his time to emcee the concert. More than $1 million will be raised for the local hospital on this island of about 10,000 permanent residents. There are beach volleyball tournaments, church fairs, sailing events and myriad other activities dedicated to improving life on the island and for the permanent residents.

Sunday, the minister at First Congregational prayed, “Thank you, God, for summer”—not just for the joys of warm weather and sunshine but for the tourists who provide jobs for the islanders…and for the islanders who mow the lawns, drive the taxis, serve the food and clean the hotel rooms. This is a community, and summer and permanent residents recognize their interdependence on one another.

The Structure of Gratitude

David Brooks wrote about “The Structure of Gratitude” in his New York Times column earlier in the week.

“I’m sometimes grumpier when I stay at a nice hotel. I have certain expectations about the service that’s going to be provided. I get impatient if I have to crawl around looking for a power outlet, if the shower controls are unfathomable, if the place considers itself too fancy to put a coffee machine in each room. I’m sometimes happier at a budget motel, where my expectations are lower, and where a functioning iron is a bonus and the waffle maker in the breakfast area is a treat.

“This little phenomenon shows how powerfully expectations structure our moods and emotions, none more so than the beautiful emotion of gratitude.

“Gratitude happens when some kindness exceeds expectations, when it is undeserved. Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness.”

I have written here about Brooks and his newest book, The Road to Character. He has begun an important conversation that we all can learn and benefit from. I am grateful to Beth Kephart for blogging about his new column, for I missed it.

Photos: Top, 18th c. Darling Street, site of the 2015 Nantucket home and garden tour. Bottom, a private garden on Darling Street.