Thankful: It takes a village

Last lesson I talked about faking it till you feel it.

And while that’s good advice, getting it going in practice can feel really tough some days.

So, I want you to consider this: if you pick a thing, any thing, from your life, you can use it as a gateway to gratitude.

Because the things that we have in our lives, are a result of some pretty long and complicated chains.

You can’t make something out of nothing, and in our highly connected modern world, we’re really more connected than we realise.

Take a cup of coffee, for instance.

When you get a coffee that you don’t have to make yourself (oh, the luxury!) it’s instead made by a barista.

Now, baristas encounter people in a very dangerous state: pre-caffeinated.

And having worked in retail, I know that anyone in customer service puts themselves on the firing line every single day, even when you’re dealing with well-caffeinated customers.

Your first thank you goes to the barista that made your coffee.

But your barista can’t make a cup of coffee without, well, coffee.

So, that means that you also owe a thank you to the coffee farmer.

There’s also the matter of getting the coffee from the farm to the coffee shop, which means that there are buyers, dealers and shippers in between… it starts adding up quickly.

Author A.J. Jacobs decided to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee.

Throughout his seemingly simple quest, Jacobs learned about much more than just gratitude as he spoke to the people involved in his cup of coffee:

  • farmers in a remote part of Colombia who grow his coffee,
  • miners in Minnesota who extract the iron that makes the steel used in coffee roasters,
  • the cup-makers who designed the takeaway coffee cup,
  • the food safety inspectors who keep the coffee free from an alarming number of diseases and creatures,
  • even a coffee taster who schooled him in all the things you can taste in coffee.
  • And because coffee is 98.4% water, Jacobs even visited the vast upstate reservoirs that supply his water in New York City.

And he thanked the folks whose homes were destroyed to make way for those lakes.

He ended up going on a journey that took him across the planet and up and down the social ladder, as he discovered that his coffee – or any other item in his life – wouldn’t be possible without hundreds of people.

People we usually take for granted: farmers, chemists, artists, presidents, truckers, mechanics, biologists, miners, smugglers, and goat herders.

And every opportunity you’ve had was made possible by people, completely unrelated to you, coming together to create something – schools, companies, governments, farms, families…

So, the next time you pick up an item, know that you’ve just become part of a long chain of people and events – and that you’re not even the last stop because after you, that thing is going to continue on its journey!

We really do live in a wild, wonderful world!


  • Describe the last time someone did something nice for you that you loved.
  • What one thing could you not live without? How does it make your life better?
  • What is a group of people (family/friend group/community etc.) that you’re grateful to be a part of?