An email conversation with a friend prompted me to think a bit harder than usual about chesed and gratitude. On one hand, I think too many of us (with the exception of this particular friend) forget to express our appreciation to and for the people around us. "Thanks" is easy to say. So why does it sometimes seem like such a rare word to hear? Or to hear it said with sincerity? On the other hand, I, personally, get embarassed when people thank me frequently. I have no idea how to handle it. I don't like being taken for granted or taken advantage of, but at the same time, I don't really like being thanked overmuch.
The explanation for the second part (I can't really called it a reason, since there might not be anything reasonable or rationale about it) is that acts of chesed, little or big, make me happy. I enjoy helping someone out, whether I know the person or not. It makes my day better. It makes me feel better about me. It somehow seems selfish (for lack of a better word) to accept gratitude and praise for something that makes me feel better about myself. Now that I think about it, shouldn't I be thanking other people for giving me the opportunity to help them out, since it results in an increase of my own happiness? If someone gives me the chance to do a mitzvah, I should be grateful to them. Not the other way around.
Where is the balance? Being thanked too much makes me feel embarassed and somehow selfish (for accpeting gratitude/praise over something I was happy to have done). Not being thanked at all, however, means I'm being taken for granted, which I can't stand. And how did an act of chesed come to be all about me, anyway?