Two Little Words that Make a Big Difference
Most of us here in the U.S. observe the fourth Thursday of November as a day to acknowledge that we are among the most fortunate people on the planet. Among other things, we recognize that unlike most of the world, we have the opportunity to be educated, with 13 years of it free for the asking. The fact that we are reading this means that we have access to electricity, which means we probably also have adequate heating and shelter, something that is only a dream to millions. Most of us will eat too much this holiday season, a concept totally foreign to most human beings on this Earth. When we’re in harm’s way, emergency workers will respond; whereas, in some parts of the world a visit from the authorities is always bad news.
Like me, you probably are sincerely grateful for these good fortunes. But there are many other more “everyday blessings” that pass by without a thought of thanks.
Several years ago I embarked on a task that brought surprising results. On my “Weather Dude” web site I answered meteorological questions from my web site visitors. (If you Google “Weather Dude Questions” you’ll find dozens of answers to those questions.) Before I answered, I asked only one thing in return: that after the inquirers received my answer, they simply reply with a “thank you.” Apparently happy to do so, they all agreed; and I emailed their answers to them.
What percentage of those do you think kept their promise? Was it 80 per cent? Maybe as few as 50 per cent? Over the life of this multi-year project, I found that fewer than ten percent followed through with those two simple words, even after they had expressly told me they would.
It was a rude wake-up call to discover that gratitude was in such short supply. Eventually other projects began to take precedence, but ultimately it was the lack of thanks that discouraged me from continuing that particular educational endeavor.
But am I any better? The fact is that people do things for me every day without a single word of thanks coming from my lips. Friends. Coworkers. Siblings. Even people I’ve never met. Too often I take their kindnesses for granted.
Then there are those other times where I say everything except “thank you.” Not long ago a co-worker complimented my choice of shirt and tie. Instead of a simple thanks I went into some long explanation of why I felt it just wasn’t stylish enough. When someone confided in me about a problem they were having, I immediately began spewing my sage words of advice when I should have said, “Thank you for entrusting this to me; how can I help?” After a talk I gave at a conference awhile back, someone had some constructive criticism for me, but I made excuses for why I couldn’t possibly do what they thought would help me. Why couldn’t I have just listened, said “thank you,” and meant it? After all, I know from experience that when I hear it, that simple two-word phrase has the power to motivate, encourage and energize me.
I guess the reason I and others fail the gratitude test is because those two words don’t come naturally. We have to think about them. We have to practice them. We have to look for opportunities to say them, because when we do that, we discover those opportunities are all around us. The busy waiter. The underappreciated bus driver. The tireless teacher. The overworked barista grinding out my perfect latte. The customer service phone representative who had to endure my ignorance or wrath. The postal worker who was standing behind the counter a lot longer than I was standing in line. My coworker. My boss. My pastor. My state representative. My spouse. My kids. Each of them deserves my gratitude; much more than I routinely supply. Yesterday may have been Thanksgiving Day, but so is today. And so is tomorrow, and the day after that.
So let me say that I am grateful to you for taking the time to read this blog. It means a lot to me that you believe I might have something valuable to impart. Thank you.
Would you pass it on?
© Nick Walker 2018
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And since I like to sneak a little music into what I do whenever possible, I’d like to thank Billboard Magazine for compiling these great songs about gratitude to get us motivated.