When I was a kid, I used to write famous people a handwritten note, telling them what I admired about them and why I was thankful for them. And I asked them if they would please send me an autographed photo of themselves.
Almost everyone obliged. And I still have those photos and autographs, including such people as Dwight Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elvis Presley, and Helen Keller. (Who knows? Maybe those pictures are worth something these days.)
Helen Keller was a particular favorite of mine, and certainly one of the most incredible women of the 20th century. Even though she was blind and deaf, she inspired the world with her accomplishments.
One time she was asked a question by a small boy in an elementary school. He asked her if it was terrible that she couldn’t see.
After her interpreter gave her the question, Helen gave a most remarkable response. She said how much more terrible it must be to have eyes and not be able to see.
Whoa!!! That really hit me.
And it hits me especially hard today in the midst of our COVID-19 pandemic and our economic turmoil. How terrible it is that some people cannot see the need to be expressing their thanks to the people in their world. After all, your thanks to someone else may be the very answer to prayer they’ve been looking for.
So my challenge to each of us this week is to express a lot more thanks to a lot more people. Start with these tips.
► 1. Actually say the words “thanks” and “thank you” more often.
Those are exquisite words. And those who say them always seem to have the most friends, the best friends, and the closest friends … versus those who take people (and what they do) for granted.
In fact, I would wager to say that the people who have the smallest, most constricted circle of friends are those who seldom say “thank you.” They just take people for granted or presume the other people know they’re grateful. They don’t think they actually have to say anything. To be blunt, that’s a stupid way to live your life, personally and professionally.
As author William Arthur Ward noted, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
As I’ve traveled and spoken around the world, I’ve learned that the words “thank you” are the most important words I could ever tell someone, especially if I learn to speak to them in their language. These words have brought out smiles, started relationships, and opened doors to business opportunities that might not have come about any other way.
Not long ago, I received a thank-you note from Father Philip Chircop, a Jesuit priest from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. He wrote, “I have been reading your ‘Tuesday Tip’ for many years, and your tips have often informed and reformed me as I deliver retreats. So I am taking some time to send you this short note as I hold you deep in my heart, with deep gratitude, for the gift that you are to so very many people.”
I don’t know Father Chircop. I don’t know how he got on my Tuesday Tip subscription list. But his words made a profound impact on my life.
And your words will have a profound impact on others as well. So commit yourself to saying “thanks” and “thank you” lots and lots and lots of times this week. Make it a habit for the future.
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► 2. Write and send notes of thanks.
In your work environment, the people around you need to know that you’ve noticed their good work and they need to know that you appreciate their contributions. Certainly you can say “thanks,” but if you take the time to put your gratefulness into words that you send them, they will save that note almost forever. They’ll read it again and again, and each time they do, they’ll get an emotional lift.
The same truth applies to your home life. It’s easy to tell your kid or spouse “thanks … or … good job … or … I appreciate that.” But put your words in a note and it will become a treasure.
To get you started in that direction, I recommend a Gratitude List. Because some of you have never really adopted the habit of writing and sending thank-you notes.
And I don’t mean thank-you notes when you receive a gift. That’s nothing more than simple courtesy. I mean thank-you notes that you send just because you appreciate something in someone.
To keep you on track, to hold yourself accountable for doing this, fill out a Gratitude List like this. List all the people you are grateful for and the reason you are grateful.
For example, I am grateful to my stepmother for her sense of calm in all situations.
Using my Gratitude List, I recalled a high school teacher of mine who believed in me, encouraged me, and coached me. She taught public speaking and she helped me make it to the finals in the state speech tournaments year after year. It was an experience that gave me skills and gave me confidence … and even my present career.
I wrote her a note of thanks and a few days later she wrote back. In very large handwriting on a very large piece of paper, she wrote, “I apologize for this note being difficult to read and misspelled words, but I have become legally blind.” That touched my heart. Despite her difficulties, she wrote back.
But what really touched my heart — and reinforced the importance of gratitude — was one sentence. She wrote, “What a surprise and joy to receive your kind note! Like a smile from the past it came into my life. Thanks so much for remembering experiences from so many years ago.”
She made a difference in my life and my note of thanks made a difference in her life. You have the same power to do the same thing in your life. So please do it, do it, do it.
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Hosted by The Buckway Group and Dr. Alan Zimmerman