The True Key to Gratitude
November always brings out the gratitude and “thankfuls”. This year you may have participated in the November posts on Facebook each day of what you are thankful for from family and friends to homes and pets. My question is what happens on December 1st? Does our gratefulness change? Does it become about gifts and vacations and shopping with the Black Friday focus? Hopefully not, yet a realization and true occurrence for many people we encounter.
As I read everyone’s posts this year and discussions on Thanksgiving about “what I’m thankful for” around the dinner table with family, it reminded me about how we approach the “thank you” moments in our lives. I’d like to share a special story with you. It is about my sweet nephew as a child and his thank you’s.
My nephew was around three years old when we moved our family to Florida. We had a special bond and when I was around I would read to him children’s books from my personal and favorite collection. We enjoyed the rhyme and rhythm of Dr. Seuss, the funny adventures of Berenstain Bears, the classics of Good Night, Moon and The Velveteen Rabbit. Even more important we both treasured those moments of snuggling and listening to adventures and new words through these books.
He was very concerned that when we moved away we wouldn’t be able to read together anymore. I had to create a special way to still be there with him and continue to instill the passion of great literature we had started. I chose some of our favorite picture books we had already read together and used a tape recorder, yes, and an antiquated piece of technology these days, to talk to my nephew as if I was snuggling right next to him. After taping a few stories, I mailed them to my sister and had her play the first one before bed one night. Of course, he thought how did Auntie Lori get into the “box” (the tape player) at first but he played those stories and turned those dog-eared pages over and over again until he was ready for more to be mailed the next month. This became the nightly routine and continued for over two years. Each month a new set of books and a cassette tape would arrive at my sister’s door waiting be opened. These packages were full of my voice, stories, funny things going on in Florida, and even a few sounds of the beach in the background.
Each month my nephew would get on the phone at my sister’s prompting to say thank you and every month it would be the same…”thank you for everything, Aunt Lori, love you, BYE” and he would run off to play or move onto other things in their busy day. That became the precedent. Even though I knew how very much he loved each book and tape in my “heartfelt” boxes, the response still wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I would ask, “Which story did you like the most?” and “Didn’t you think it was funny about Grandma and Grandpa?” Of course, he would then tell me his favorite story and we would chat briefly about what G and G did. It was the “thank you” that was missing.
Unfortunately, this became the norm in his life as he grew. Other packages with favorite items for holidays and birthdays or for “just because” moments gleaned the same quick response, “thanks for everything, love you, BYE”. My reaction would be the same “but what about…”. Our relationship changed, those grateful opportunities became fewer and fewer and the closeness we once had slipped away.
Thankfulness is an important aspect of a purposeful, heart-led life. Even now with grandchildren around us, we can instill it in them so very simply. Remember to use the “Thank you” moments to structure a way to share with children and youth for writing notes, cards, or even give face to face or over the phone. The gratitude filled three questions to answer are:
What are you thankful or thanking the person for?
What impact did their kindness or strengths have on you personally?
How did their kindness or sharing of those make you feel?
Can you think of an opportunity to use this structure? What answers would you have and to whom? Thankfulness and gratitude are such important experiences that everyone must have to be successful in work, school, home, and in life.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." --Melody Beattie
Sometimes it’s not just ordinary gratitude you need to use but a stronger impact on that person by “knocking their socks off”. In the quality research by William Glasser he shares that going “above and beyond” is the highest and most important form of quality. Who would you want to “knock their socks off” this month? Make a plan of action and execute, you will receive an overwhelming feeling of joy in return.
There are many opportunities to say thank you with a heartfelt reason and purpose. We frequent the airport and the toll booth people welcome those kind words of appreciation every time we go through their gate. The holiday is a great time to begin the new routine of thanking our teachers, staff, administrators, coaches, UPS and FedEx drivers and clerks, the cashier at a store you shop, service men and women, and even our friends and family. Take a moment to say how much you appreciate them and why when you have the chance. It will help us change the way that people see their own lives and those of others.
What thank you’s are you sharing this month with others? Take time to thank those who appear to be doing “us” a service when in essence they may never be thanked for the job they do every day. We challenge you to keep that routine going in January and 2018, too. It will become one of your greatest gifts to others, including yourself.
Walking With YOU,