A few years ago, I read an excerpt from a book called 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik.
The author was finishing the worst year of his life in 2007 and through a series of events decided to write a different thank you note each day for a year. The experience changed his life.
Since I have decided to jump back into reading this year I have made sure I am not without a book to read each night. Either one chapter a day or 10 pages whichever comes first and my attention span holds out on. Right before Thanksgiving I finished a book so I decided to read the entire book this year over the Thanksgiving holiday. It seemed like an appropriate choice for the holiday.
After reading the Reader’s Digest excerpt, I have modeled my November after the daily gratitude formula. A year seemed daunting but I can write a different thank you from November 1 through Thanksgiving.
My first year attempting to do so I fell behind and ended up writing the bulk of the notes on a Sunday. This left me with hand cramps and the final notes were sloppy and generic.
Last year I can’t remember if I did it or not. It was a rough year and I may have wallowed in self pity a bit. Ironic, because this daily altruistic exercise probably would have been beneficial.
This year I decided to do it again. I prepared early enough by purchasing thank you cards ahead of time. I then wrote a list of 23 people I knew that I could thank. My attempt was to not fall back on the same people every year so I included co-workers, people I serve with in church, and even our mail person (I live in Wyoming with all sorts of inclement weather. Even though this is a paid job I thought a thank you would be nice). The list culminated with a gratitude prayer to my Heavenly Father.
I did not include all of my family members this time because I wanted to force myself to find other people to thank. Basically to step outside of my comfort zone a bit. Although I did thank my dad and siblings again. They are the closest to me and really need to be shown gratitude for the full time job of supporting me. Especially my dad. Both my parents have always been my biggest fans and so proud of me even though I’m probably the least deserving in my family for any sort of praise.
Every night in November I sat down and wrote a hand written thank you card. There is a trick to writing thank you cards. I tried to avoid the insincere “thanks for all you do” that carries so little weight and always begs the question, “what is it I do?” Instead, I thought of each person and tried to think of something specific I could mention. Some were harder than others. For example, trying to be sincere to my mail person whom I have never met was a difficult task. But I wanted each note to uplift the recipient not be easily tossed away as an apparent Thanksgiving holiday to-do item for me.
My goal was to show sincere gratitude for people not accustomed to receiving thank yous.
One thing I would do differently next time is to write a practice note. Sometimes I couldn’t find the right word to express my thoughts so I used five extras. There were a few notes I wasn’t sure made any sense and one note I had to tear up and start all over. A rough draft would have been helpful.
In the end, I hoped it would help put me in the proper spirit for the Day of Giving Thanks. After all, I claim it as my favorite holiday. I figured I should celebrate it accordingly. This daily exercise turned my heart and thoughts to the many people behind the scenes that sacrifice time and talents to whatever they do that brings their circle overlapping into mine. I know there have been some embarrassing times when I have appeared ungrateful and unappreciative. Overall though, I hope I can always find something to be grateful about.