As a child, I was directed to write thank you notes. The oddity of this direction came because the people who I wrote to were also present when I received the present. I learned to mind my manners and whether I liked the present or not, I always said “thank you”. There is no doubt that sometimes my verbal “thank you” and my body language did not match, but correction in my family was quite immediate. My written thanks were not anymore heartfelt, but it was an accepted practice that was more about obedience than being thankful.
Thankfulness has become less of an attitude and more of an action. Gifts can be a form of showing thanks, but the skeptical side of me tends to question the motive or the list of the giver when the gifts are all the same. In my family, there are four women and therefore for years and the ease of shopping, we all received the same gifts, but in different colors. In the professional world, this gift-giving practice is very common. I always wonder what list does my name appear and how did it get there. Unfortunately, certain holidays seem to collect the appropriateness of giving in order to create some sort of imaginary balance out of a year’s worth of obligations. Sadly, thankfulness has become more of a forced act or a meaningless salutation saved for the special times attached to great things or for the unexpected times when favors fall our way. Is a gift truly a gift or what are the assumed expectations invisibly attached to the item being given?
Thank you is also an obvious a simple reply of acknowledgment when someone points out something that may well go undetected such as an uneven surface, a curb or awkward low ceiling. It is a proper response when a door is held open, a chair held or a coat held to avoid the self-conscious action of fumbling with the sleeve. A simple thanks can be compared to a historical tipping of one’s hat, a nod of the head or a directed smile. Appropriate etiquette is nice, but is that all being thankful is?
As I have gotten older, being thankful has become more important. An unassuming thank you is something intangible and has more meaning than something I can hold. It can be spoken or written in very few words, but it takes kindness and intention. In the urgency of life when instant gratification runs amuck, where does thankfulness belong?
Thankfulness is gratitude in our attitude. It is a way of seeing and living life with a fresh perspective that has relational priorities. Thankfulness is grown through life lessons of modeling by the simplest people in the most ordinary ways. Thankfulness can be found in a reflection of what is that matches what has been imagined, but never believed. Thankfulness can also be set in the common routine of daily life or workplace where one ponders and realizes the privileges received in the experience. Thankfulness is a receipt of understanding that is is a reciprocating response that’s purpose is to be paid forward.
Thank you is an expression for the heart that moves to the head. It is not a burden nor does it impede who we are. Rather thankfulness enhances us. Thankfulness recognizes the personhood of others and acknowledges it and acts with it. Thankfulness appears in the immediate, but also lives out without notice. This attitude invigorates the ordinary by bringing forth the unexpected.
Thankfulness is a cultivation of lessons learned and passed on. Thankfulness is about the little things that build up and live on in the great things. Thankfulness allows for hope to never vanish though the gifts are outgrown and determined useless. Thankfulness opens us up to belong and connect with others in a moment and a lifetime. Thank you is an expression that enhances our memories and influences our journeys. We often make jokes about the “snail mail”, but in these times of the bombardment of email and social media, can a simple note be a suitable unforeseen way to communicate your thankfulness? Just a note of thanks… here’s to you!