Gratitude Sells

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

Many of the battles that must be won in order to win the War on Racial Dissonance can be won more easily with money than without money, and those battles can be won more easily with private money than with government money.  Now, what is the best way to round up private money for use in a noble cause?  It is the way of gratitude.

People who are in a position to be generous tend to respond to gratitude rather than attitude.  Yet it seems that those in need of help tend to pursue help with an attitude of entitlement rather than thanksgiving.  The sense of entitlement seems always to be on display, while gratitude seems to be in short supply.

After Jesus healed 10 people of an awful disease, only one of his beneficiaries had the good sense–and class–to come back to him and say, “Thank you.”  At this, Jesus took the trouble to express his disappointment with the ungrateful.

“Were not all 10 cleansed?” he asked.  “Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give thanks except this foreigner (Lk. 17:17)?”

If God himself desires gratitude, how much more likely are we mere humans to not only desire it but to require it?  Let’s face it:  Gratitude sells!

While we’re facing the fact that gratitude sells, let’s also face a related fact:  Mayberry reality is that Harlem rarely says, “Thank you.”  Every white person in America has heard the black community say, “It’s about time,” but few whites have ever heard Harlem say, “Thank you.”

Let’s never mind whether or not Mayberry reality is accurate on this point because, after all, Mayberry Reality is reality as far as Mayberry is concerned.  Instead, let’s strive for wisdom.

Wisdom says that Mayberry will pay its taxes because it must, and some of those taxes will be used to help certain blacks.  But Mayberry’s generosity beyond taxation is a matter of the heart, and any heart–including the Mayberry heart–is more receptive to gratitude than to attitude.

As I was praying over this chapter, pop culture just happened to serve up a near-perfect example of Mayberry shunning Harlem not because Harlem is black but because Harlem often exudes an offensive air of entitlement.

First the media reported that hip-hop artist and recording industry mogul Kanye West was in financial trouble and “needed” $50 million.  This of course raised the question around Mayberry, “Why on earth would anyone “need” $50 million?”

Next, on Valentine’s Day of 2016, Mr. West took to the social media vehicle Twitter to appeal to Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook:  “Mark Zuckerberg invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas.”

Twenty-four hours later Mr. West followed up with this tweet:  “Mark I am publicly asking you for help…”

This raised more questions around Mayberry.  The first was, “Why would anyone use Twitter to appeal to the CEO of an outfit that competes with Twitter?  That question was just for fun.  Then came more serious questions:  “Where’s the humility?  Where’s the gratitude?”

Almost needless to say, Mr. Zuckerberg’s public response was silence.  For all we know the two may have had a private talk after the public appeal, but the “smart money” around Mayberry says that no such conversation ever took place and no money ever changed hands.

Now, the “smart money” is smart because it knows something.  It knows that Mr. Zuckerberg is human and that the human heart responds to gratitude, not attitude.  The smart money also knows that when someone is uber-wealthy, the long line for handouts forms at the rear, not at the front.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s John Rockefeller amassed so much personal wealth that he was actually able to bail the United States economy out of a tight spot.  In relative terms he was richer than any of today’s billionaires, and he learned and passed along a lesson we should all learn.

Rockefeller spent roughly two-thirds of his life piling up wealth and the last third giving most of it away.  As a person who both earned and gave away a staggering fortune, he was in a unique position to observe the attitude of his beneficiaries, and his conclusions are fascinating.

Known throughout his ascent as a fierce and merciless competitor, Rockefeller in his time was more often vilified than glorified.  No doubt, he encountered many men in business who were just as ambitious and ruthless as he himself.  Toward the end of his life, though, Rockefeller observed that while he had been a tough man and had indeed run across many unscrupulous people in business, he encountered another whole level of duplicity in philanthropy.  In essence, Rockefeller asserted that many of his beneficiaries were more conniving than any of his competitors!

This was such a revelation to Rockefeller that he ultimately warned that if a person goes into philanthropy expecting gratitude, he may as well keep his money and spare himself the inevitable disappointment.

Jesus observed that gratitude is rare and attractive, and 1900 years later Rockefeller observed the same thing.  The important upshot is that today there are God-only-knows how many rich white people just sitting on their money because they cannot find grateful people worthy to receive their money and make godly use of it.

As a rule, neither God nor wise rich people require gratitude as a way of “lording” their wealth over others.  Rather, both God and the wealthy wise look for gratitude because it’s a great indicator of soil fertility.  Neither God nor rich people enjoy planting their money in barren soil, and they know that soil devoid of gratitude yields nothing at worst and weeds at best.

Malcolm X argued that blacks should never be grateful because centuries of white oppression had left a “scar.”  Some 50 years after Malcolm’s Complaint, what good has the proliferation of his poisonous argument done?  Sure, it has helped to put the IRS’ gun to Mayberry’s head, but it has done absolutely nothing to soften Mayberry’s heart or loosen Mayberry’s grip on its bulging purse.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2004, America heard plenty of complaints from the people of that region.  No matter what Caesar did, it wasn’t enough.  No surprise there.  But for all the complaints, there were few if any expressions of gratitude.  Granted, there were many heartwarming individual stories, but hardly a single story of community thanksgiving.

Had New Orleans’ leaders chosen to lead a gratitude parade rather than a pity party, that city and region would have recovered much sooner than it did.  Had any community in the affected region painted “Thank you, America!” on every water tower in town, the amount of private money that would have cheerfully poured in would have dwarfed the amount that trickled in from a reluctant Caesar and reluctant insurance companies.

The Katrina debacle was not a “black thing” nor a “white thing,” it was a human thing.  Gratitude sells.  Attitude does not.

If you want money for a black cause from Caesar, go ahead and keep the attitude.  But if you’re looking for money for a black cause from Mayberry, try cranking up the gratitude.  And if your pride will not allow you to thank Mayberry, be prepared to blame your poor results on pride, not Mayberry.

Jesus introduced a motion for gratitude and Rockefeller seconded it.  Now, all you rich white folks in favor of gratitude, say “aye.”  Motion carries.

Red Racial Nugget #6:  “Was no one found to return and give thanks except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17)

Be street smart yet harmless.  Peace.


Tommy Libre

Thomas P. Scribbins, a.k.a. Tommy Libré, is an inspirational writer and businessman living in what Mayberry calls “Hotlanta” and Harlem calls “The A.T.L.” A former engineer and roofing contractor who has worked his way down the ladder, he is married to Kathy—his “Trophy Babe” for the past 37 years—and has three grown sons. Harlem Meets Mayberry will be published around Christmas by Xulon Press. After that, Tommy will turn some of his attention to his next book—“Code Red Christianity”—and some to his lifetime dream, which is to open a substance-conquest ministry called Ugly Orphans. At Ugly Orphans, the cool softball T-shirts will be just the beginning of the fun. WooHoo!