When my daughter got braces she was a difficult patient. She was constantly chewing gum that she wasn’t supposed to, eating foods that she wasn’t supposed to, and she constantly had to go back to the orthodontist to rearrange the braces, realign things, et cetera. And she was according to his understanding quite a difficult patient. In any case, when she finished the course, she wrote him a letter saying thank you, you gave me a beautiful smile, you put up with all of my things I shouldn’t have been doing; I greatly appreciate it, thank you.
Now, as a father I read that letter and obviously I was quite proud. My daughter had a sense of hakaras hatov (appreciation). Look what this orthodontist did for her. But then I thought about it for a moment and I said wait a minute, who drove her to each of those appointments? Who paid the $5,000 for her braces? Was there a thank you to her father? And I’m sorry to say that there wasn’t. She is a wonderful girl, but you see, we human beings fall prey to a very interesting phenomenon. When you do something for me I’m appreciative, I see it, I recognize it. But if I understand that every favor that was ever granted to me has been directed to me by Hashem, yes, I have to thank you because you’re the shaliach (messenger), but more importantly I have to understand that any good that ever befell me has been directed to me. From the time I was a young child throughout my life, any favor, any kindness, anyone who did for me something, I have to appreciate what they’ve done for me. And at the same time I have to have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation to my Creator, who brought that shaliach to me.
Both realities are true. You are the messenger, I appreciate your kindness, but much more importantly I recognize Hashem as the One Who grants this to me and I sing hallel v’hoda’ah (appreciation and thanksgiving) to my Creator, Who brought me all of this good.