They cried out. They were desperate. They begged for mercy so they wouldn't have to endure the shame and hardship anymore. And then what? They either lacked memory or gratitude and forgot to return to give thanks for the saving grace that spared them from separation and difficulty. Why did the lepers, save one, fail to show any sort of gratitude?
Perhaps this story seems far too familiar in our lives. But it need not be and even more so, it shouldn't be. Developing a culture of gratitude is not only courteous, it is key in staying spiritually well.
forget me not
The striking thing about expressing gratitude is that the truly righteous won't stop giving, even if they go unappreciated or unthanked. I don't doubt Mashiach Yeshua would have kept on healing even if no one had ever expressed thanks to Hashem for the wonders and miracles. But gratitude is so much more than the giver receiving acknowledgement of a deed well done. It is deeper than that. I believe it has more to do with the recipient feeling remembered through this expression of thanks as well as the giver. The gratitude expressed helps the recipient to recall that he/she was remembered, loved, cared for and is valuable through whatever act was bestowed, and in turn that love is returned to the giver. There is something profound in thanking someone that makes us feel special and brings good will, whether it be with our Creator or our fellow. We realize we are not forgotten, we are important.
Expressing gratitude is also a healthy component in spiritual well-being. When we forget to show appreciation for the gifts we have been given and the kindness that has been shown to us, we can grow callous and feel as if we are entitled to whatever, whenever. This is spiritually detrimental and can create a culture in our lives of feeling depraved when we don't have what we think we should have, growing accustomed to what we have and despising it, and spurning the blessings in our life because they come effortlessly at times. It is a sad spiral that begins to happen when we forget to show our thankfulness for even the smallest of things. We can go from being satisfied to completely miserable.
As the lepers were healed, only one was truly healed in my mind: the one who returned to give thanks. Though physically healed, he was also spiritually healed and felt remembered; due to this, he was able to give thanks and I am certain it felt good to do so. Through this acknowledgment of his renewed condition, he was not only connecting to a source that gave him love; he was reciprocating and sharing that love. It was no doubt life-changing and spiritually nourishing.
For us, we would do well to follow this example and be quick to express our thanks in an audible voice—to Hashem, to our fellow—for whatever goodness is bestowed upon us. Don't hesitate or be lax in your thanks, lest you become like the other nine lepers who didn't get around to showing their gratefulness. Rise up and show your gratitude.