I love words. Words that join with other words to form sentences to tell stories, relay information, and portray feelings. It frightens me to think we are morphing into a society that is doing away with some very important words.
Words that show gratitude may be headed towards extinction. It’s so easy to blurt out a "thanks" and yet many of us forget to do so. Rare is the phrase "Thank you" and even rarer are full sentences like “I appreciate you/what you’ve done.”
A study out of the University of Miami recorded that grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated and are less envious of others. Not bad traits to have.
Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feelings more than it diminishes unpleasant ones. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life; they just find them easier to live with. I for one can vouch for that.
Years ago, after I'd won an international short story contest, I published a book of short stories called Okanagan Tales. It was then I recognized how far I’d come from that kid in grade two who wrote a story about a turnip and a little red wagon. To this day I fondly remember my teacher encouraging me; however, I’d never thanked her for it.
It took one phone call to my old elementary school to put me hot on the trail of the person to whom I owed a sincere thank you. Within two hours I’d found her down in Washington State and was actually speaking to her. I got a little choked up as I told her who I was and why I was calling. I thanked her for believing in a little girl whose dream was to be a writer. I told her I got a bit sidetracked by life, but I was now headed in the right direction.
She was taken aback as most would be and then told me how much she appreciated my call. She now knew that somewhere out there was a grown woman, whose future was shaped by her some four decades ago with the help of her support, encouragement and kindness.
We both benefited from that phone call. I somehow felt more whole, more complete. There was no nagging feeling that I’d forgotten something. As for my teacher, she had her career choice reaffirmed by a voice from the past.
It was shortly after that call, that reminder of what my dreams were, that I started writing full time for a living. I haven't looked back since, and for that I am so truly grateful.
Acknowledge your family, friends, mentors and teachers and the part they have played in your life. Whether it was a lifetime of leading by example or a simple well placed word, recognize it, be thankful for it, and let those involved know how you feel. You just never know how many more doors an attitude of gratitude will open for you.
As Albert Schweitzer said, "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
Oh - and by the way - thank you for reading this.