12/01/2014 04:55 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

Grateful or Entitled


With the holidays around the corner, and Thanksgiving just passed, my thoughts go back to the day when I had an interesting conversation with one of my students. I lived in Dubai, and this child came from a very very rich family. I was talking about the importance of gratitude in our lives when this young boy with big expressive eyes raised his hand. I said, "Yes, do you have a question?" and the reply just totally shocked me. "Ms. Tami, why should we always be grateful? Is it wrong to want a lot more? Isn't that why we are born, to better our life? Look at scientists and astronauts who discover or invent things that are unknown. If they stayed content with what they had, we would still live in caves." What an entitled child, I thought.

I was totally shocked and was speechless for about a minute. Then I pulled out my teacher logic and gave that whole lecture about we still should be grateful for everything. My student rolled his eyes and just didn't argue anymore.

So every Thanksgiving I began to think of that comment. If Newton was just grateful for the apple that fell on his head, would we ever have to study his theories? Or if Mother Teresa was just grateful for her own health and well being would she ever go to help others that were in need. Or if she was just grateful would Malala Yosufzai stop her education after being shot in the face ?

What is gratefulness? Honestly speaking, I have questioned the concept for many years myself. Do we be grateful for what we have and just accept things that happen or do we raise up against what we already have and know?

I was told growing up to always look at people who have less than you, look at the less fortunate and be grateful. I did look at the less fortunate, but I always tried to achieve higher for myself. I struggled as a child because I never fit in the norm. I was quiet and awkward. I hated sports and studying but loved to tell stories. I hardly spoke, yet I could communicate with all kinds of people. I was grateful but wanted more. Was that wrong of me?

Today I feel like our kids have a sense of entitlement, and our parents told us to not want more. Did my generation get confused somewhere in the middle? It was so drilled in us to be happy for the few gifts we got on birthdays and celebrations. Yet kids today are grateful for nothing and assume that they deserve everything and more.

So my answer to the gratefulness gurus and the entitled individuals is that there is a middle ground where we need to get to. It's absolutely necessary to be grateful for things that are not measureable -- like health, love of family and friends and happiness. However, entitlement should come only after a major goal has been achieved or something that is measureable, it makes you accept your achievement and be proud of it. So my philosophy is that let your heart be content and grateful and your brain be striving and entitled!