Let’s talk about saying “Thank You.” This isn’t about thanking donors or fundraising or manners or politeness. Nothing like that, this is different. File this idea under “living life well.”
However you decide to think about it, if you take this action, you’ll create a magical moment of deep connection.
I’d like to think I’m a grateful person. Maybe you are, too. There’s something powerful, centering and calming about reflecting on the things in your day that made you feel grateful. Part of living my faith is that I am grateful to God for the kindnesses and goodness I’ve received from Him. I express that. I think about that often.
Gratitude generally (or maybe “generically”) has gained traction lately. On Instagram, I regularly see people posting daily gratitude lists. There’s all sorts of stuff on those lists: sunsets, good workouts, awesome smoothies and the smiles of their kids. Deep and shallow. It’s captivating (really). Taking the time to make a gratitude list serves as a wonderful anchor in unsettled times.
As inspiring as that is, that’s not what I’m thinking about.
This is about saying thank you to someone special. I’m not talking about what you say when the barista gets your order right or when you see the UPS guy drop the packages off. You do that already, or at least you do if your mother was like mine. It’s autonomic.
I’m talking about clearly and specifically thanking someone who had a positive impact on your life.
Think about the people who have been crucial in your life.
Maybe it’s time for a list?
There are the obvious people: parents, siblings, pastors, teachers… but maybe also there are people who uniquely touched your life. Maybe in the moment, you expressed your gratitude but now after the passing of time, you’re still impacted by who they were in your life, what they said at just the right moment or how they lived their life.
In college, I idolized one of the younger professors. He was dressed sharp and sounded smart. In addition to being the “cool” professor teaching advertising, he was also working in the “real world of advertising.” And he drove a Jaguar. As a college professor. A brand new Jaguar. I was 18. I was mesmerized.
Not long ago, I happened to see a Jaguar that was the same color and model of his. For some reason, it instantly took me back to how he had poured into my life. He gave me time and attention outside of class and outside of what he really had to do. I was a scruffy, ignorant, arrogant freshman. Yet. He treated me like I was someone worthy of his time and attention. The memory of that made me smile as I watched that Jag purr out of the parking lot. Right then I went to the Google. I found him at an ad agency. I called. He answered the phone. We chatted for about 5 minutes. Candidly, I’m not 100% sure he really remembered me. But that didn’t matter. He clearly enjoyed the call. And I enjoyed telling him he’d made a difference in the life of my younger self and now these years later, his kindness still mattered to me.
On Saturday, I was wrestling around with how to talk to you about this, and I got a long text from a friend. He thanked me. He had no idea that saying “thank you” was on my mind.
He’s a sharp, young guy who I’ve enjoyed thinking with and helping. His text was warm, specific and clear on how I’d helped him.
I have to tell you, I was unprepared for how his thank you felt. Even though I’d spent time thinking about this email, I was startled by how wonderful his “thank you” was. I don’t do what I do for thank you’s, but it was unexpectedly gratifying.
What my buddy did is exactly what I’d like you to consider.
Take a minute and think of:
Who set your feet on the right path or steered you off the wrong path?
Who believed in you when no one in their right mind would or should have believed in you?
Who gave you time beyond what was reasonable?
In my life, there’s been many. These quickly come to my mind:
There’s Kevin who showed me mercy and kindness when I desperately needed it.
There’s Jack who spoke the right word at the right time to help me see a career path.
There’s Jim who inspires me to dream and think beyond my abilities.
There’s Mike who’s my best friend.
The more this sits with me, the more my list grows.
Some of the people who meant the world to you might be dead. Do they have children? Or a spouse? What an amazing call it would be for a daughter who doesn’t know you to hear the impact her mother had on your life.
Some recommendations if you undertake this challenge:
Be specific about the why.
Be clear about the difference it made then and now.
Be measured (don’t try to thank everyone, start small and stay steady).
Start with “Thank you” and end with “Thank you.” Put specifics in the middle.
Try to limit your communication to just your Thank you. That allows the power of your thank you remain undiluted.
How to do it?
It might be counterintuitive, but I encourage you to use email as a last resort. This should be different than business as usual. Pick up the phone. Write a note, in your handwriting. Send a text. Go see them. If none of that works, send an email. I wouldn’t do this on anything that’s a social media platform. Make this real and personal. Give it some weight.
If you do this, you will honor and reward those you are thanking. They’ll be changed by the experience of being thanked. You might feel it, too.
Let me know what you think and how it goes. I’m grateful for our connection.
You can always reach me at sthomas AT oneicity DOT com
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