Gratitude is heaven itself

A bright college student asked a simple vocabulary question that threw me this week. “What is the opposite of jealous“?

What is the opposite of jealous? Generous? Selfless? Confident? I found myself discussing various possibilities with students adding in situations. The simple vocabulary building exercise (create 25 pairs of opposite adjectives) took a more philosophical turn. We had a lively, if a bit wandering, class discussion. I apologized for my memory lapse, urged them to check a dictionary, and promised to get back to students with a better answer.

In the teacher’s room, a fellow teacher noted “The world jealousy includes the word lousy.” We shared a laugh. That’s a good answer. How did he instantly come up with that? Why couldn’t I do that?

I felt discontent, dissatisfied, and displeased with my weak classroom answers. Perhaps the opposite of “jealous” is content, satisfied, and pleased.

Stress comes naturally when driving in Los Angeles, and my commute back home fit the pattern. Many words popped into my head that captured negative feelings, including jealous. Could I be jealous of bus riders? Really? I started to visualize a bus ride home from UCLA, sitting – no, probably standing up, for 40 minutes next to exhausted strangers. Memories of less pleasant commutes on subway rides in New York from 20 years ago returned. No, I didn’t envy or feel jealous of the bus riders.

I eventually arrived home. Boomer, my dog, barked to announce my arrival and licked my face as I entered the front door. He’s great. “Dogs are our link to paradise,” wrote Milan Kundera. Absolutely.

Gratitude. That’s the opposite of jealousy. Gratitude. Why didn’t I think of that in class? Next time.

“Gratitude is heaven itself.” Who said that? Blake? Yeah, William Blake. The great poet-painter-mystic man. Remember that quote the next time an English student asks, “what is the opposite of jealous?”

Teaching English, especially to bright international college students, helps keep me focused and clear. This week I learned the opposite of jealousy and rediscovered a favorite quotation. Consider me satisfied, content, and grateful.

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