I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately. The active kind.
When I sit with my eldest daughter at bedtime we always say what we felt was good about the day that passed (The Top Three, she now calls it). I never grow tired of hearing what she thinks is valuable and important about her life.
For years, I’ve also made lists about things I’m grateful for. I’ve kept a journal about it, and I’ve meditated about it.
I love these practises. They feel good and meaningful in every way.
But lately I’ve felt an urge to express gratitude more actively, outwardly. To say thank you, as often as I can remember to. Very often we don’t, even though the feeling of appreciation may be there. Maybe because we’re not aware how valuable it is to the recipient (why would she care what I think?) This is especially true when the recipient happens to be a public figure in some way.
Or we say a lot of thank you’s, the way we’ve been raised to, but never for the stuff that really matters. Maybe because we become a little vulnerable when we express sincere gratitude.
That thank you carries so much meaning, it gives us away. It says you mean something to me. It’s a declaration of love, in a way. Of course you feel naked.
When I started writing publicly, on the blog, it became clear how much it means to get response from my readers. Whether it’s a short but encouraging Great! or a intimate story of how my words touched someone, or changed something.
Thank you too, I say, and mean it with all my heart. Not thank you for the praise, necessarily, but thank you for taking the time to tell me. Thank you for giving me such beautiful proof that what I do is helpful. Thank you for making yourself known and giving me a person to write to. Thank you for the sincere connection.
I’ve started to say thank you in all sorts of situations, where before I didn’t take the time – or didn’t dare – to say anything. Like to my accountant, to the guy at the print office, to my bank contact. I’ll send a short email – not just to him but to his boss as well. I’ll say: Thank you for x, this guy’s great because of x, be good to him, he’s an asset to you company. It takes me two minutes but can make someone’s day (usually it makes mine too).
I write to people who inspire me. I write to authors whose books touch me. Not looking for an answer, just to give something back to someone who has given me so much. No strings attached.
It feels right, saying thank you like that. To mirror someone’s gift, talent or good will. To say your kindness matters, you’ve mattered to me.
Words are powerful. Should we be aware exactly how powerful they are, we’d be a lot more mindful about how we use them. What we say and don’t say matter, in a very fundamental way. The words we use shape the world we live in.
I want to use my words well. Not just when I write but always, in every meeting, conversation and relationship, including to myself. Quite the challenge, I know. That’s ok. I’ve got the rest of my life to practise.