When I graduated high school, I decided to use this great stationary I had and write “thank you” notes to some of my teachers. I didn’t write one to every teacher I had–though they all deserved thanks–I wrote to those teachers who played an important role for me personally as I developed through school. I wrote one to my junior high English teacher who was the first to really believe in my independent voice; to my 5th grade teacher who gave me a book for Christmas that was one of my favorites (I still have it!); to my TAG teacher (enrichment class), who showed me that intelligence was a gift and who introduced me to the idea of higher education; to my physics teacher, who engaged in philosophical debates with me regularly and let me keep my physics text book (still have it, too I think!); one to my second grade teacher, who had this giant Garfield tent that we could read in if we behaved; and more.
This week I was reminded of the value of a heartfelt “thank you.” I received one of the most delightful, lovely, and thoughtful thank you’s I’ve ever had! The wonderful Ms. Anita and her fabulous 7th graders from Brooklyn compiled a little stack of colorful notes, drawings, and a homemade scarf (!) and mailed them to me as a “thank you” for posting their work on this blog! (If you need a reminder, search the category “Brooklyn students embroideries” and you’ll find over 20 posts on the topic!) As I opened the package, all these bright paper hearts came falling out, and I read every message out-loud to my husband as I giggled, and smiled, and laughed! Each message was so sweet–and the drawings on them were terrific! One of the students, Lucara, added the “Be Nice” to the scarf–it is perfect! One of my most prized possessions (and how did they know how much I love scarves!?)!
The sheer joy I felt receiving such a thoughtful message of gratitude made me think of an article I had seen on CBS awhile back, about writing “thank you’s.” As the commentator mentioned, thank you notes are on their way out–specifically the hand-written kind. But some of us still do it, and some of us write them all the time. Take author John Kralik.
One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams–including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge–seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.
Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.
Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal–come what may–of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year.
One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous–for gifts or kindnesses he’d received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who’d done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he’d sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John’s way–from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John’s whole life turned around. (source of this text: click here)
Being grateful is linked to a number of amiable characteristics: patience, awareness, humility, value of community, receptivity, positivity, and so on. I imagine people sensed a transformation, or a certain openness, in Mr. Kralik’s character as he began to change his perspective, and responded in kind. And while sometimes a verbal “thank you” might not yield the same response, I believe any form of gratitude is an awesome sentiment to express regularly. These Brooklyn kids, their teacher, and John Kralik could all be wonderful role models as we begin to recognize the good things in our lives day to day.
So, I’ll start now by saying: Thank you! For reading the blog, supporting the project, for being a kind person. It means the world to me.