Every year we host an event to thank the donors to our annual giving program. It’s a festive evening, always with a different and well-planned theme and everyone seems to enjoy the wonderful party. But the few minutes we set aside for the program are the ones that matter most to me and, I think, to many of those gathered. It’s a time when we tell some stories of how philanthropy makes a difference, not just in a broader sense but in the real stories of real people, the impact on individual lives.
As I’ve thought about gratitude and expressing thanks, I’ve thought about how much easier it seems to be to complain rather than praise. When we hear from residents and families, we receive many compliments. Yet it is the concerns that draw our attention and we become focused on attacking the problem, putting the positives aside or even ignoring them completely. For good or for ill, I think that is human nature and really the way we approach so many (too many) situations and interactions in our lives.
There is a lot in the popular literature about gratitude. There are books and apps and blogs that encourage us to write out daily expressions of gratitude, to take a few minutes to center ourselves and recognize all that is good in our lives and that for which we are grateful. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great and very meaningful.
But I would suggest that we go beyond that, that we make a practice every day of saying thank you as often as we can. To say thank you for the small things, from the person who holds the door open when your hands are full of packages to the one who rings up your grocery order. And that we go beyond those simple thank you messages to really think about the gratitude that we should express to those who matter in our lives.
I did that with our management team this morning. In a group of about 30, I asked folks to publicly thank one or two of their peers. Each one that spoke had wonderful things to share. “Thank you for always being willing to help me.” “Thank you for being a good friend.” “Thank you for supporting me in my new role.” “Thank you for making the building sparkle.” It went on in that vein. When everyone finished, I went around the table and thanked each individual for their specific gifts and contributions to the organization and to those we serve.
It took us less than 15 minutes to do this exercise, yet I’ve heard about it all day long and I’ve seen more notes shared that kept the gratitude going, thanking someone they didn’t thank in the meeting, adding to the words they shared this morning. It cost nothing yet everyone left the room smiling and standing, I think, a little straighter.
Thank you matters, gratitude matters, both in our hearts and, perhaps even more so, when it is shared.