Gratuity is a funny word that we often only deal with at the end of an extended stay at our favourite coffee house or some fancy or perhaps not so fancy restaurant. We tend think about gratuity in terms of some monetary gain or loss for someone. We think of gratuity in terms of the money we have to leave behind in relation to the servicer we’ve received, but the word gratuitous has a deeper meeting?

Gratuity derives from the latin word gratus, which means to be most pleasing and grateful. Gratuity implies being pleased and grateful. Originally, the word gratuitous meant giving something for free. It meant to give something without the benefit of return or compensation. Today of course, like many other words in your arsenal, we use it very casually and loosely, and apply it quickly to many things, like the gratuitous violence in a movie.

I wish we would have the time to carefully craft our words and stop and contemplate their original meaning. I know it can become a tedious and lonely endeavour but I am stuck on the words pleasing and grateful.

When we we’ve had a bad service at a restaurant, we still tip, we still leave some sort of gratuity, but why? We were not pleased and we are not grateful, but yet we are gratuitous. A bit odd, don’t you think? This habitual act of tipping we have resigned ourselves to. Now, I am not suggesting we stop tipping our waitress and waiter in a restaurant, but I am suggesting that perhaps much of what we do each and every day is without defined purpose and thought.

Many of us seem to be going through the motions of life. Doing the right things and saying the right things the right way. We talk all the time. We are very social. We follow and like things on social media. We get offended by the news that reaches us and we are gratuitous. But are we pleased and grateful?

Do you make it your life’s mission to to give something that you care deeply about, or something that you are, away for free, or are you desperately trying to monetize it?  Do you make it a habit to make something or share something with someone without any benefit or chance of being compensated? Do you give freely? Do you give when it matters? Do you stand up when it counts? Do you call people out when they want to hide? Do you listen when they need you the most?

Or do you just put money down next to your empty plate thinking that you’ve done everything you’ve been asked to do and you move on with the rest of your day.

This reflection is not about the meaning of words, although that is very important too. It is my hope that moving forward, you and I, can become more genuine in your effort to make a difference. Changing the world is a very tall order, but making a difference is very reasonable.

We need to create things that are pleasing, to be someone who is pleasing, to do something that is much needed, right there where you are, right now, today, when you don’t feel quite ready. We need to be very pleasing and above everything else grateful. Grateful for life itself. Grateful for the ability to be pleasing. Grateful for the opportunity to share and care about something. We need to be gratuitous. Gratuitous in our love of other people. Gratuitous in our tenaciousness. Gratuitous to a fault.


Cover photo generously provided by photographer J.S. Romeo via