The other day I found myself moved by something I put in my “finer things in life” category. I’m not talking about monogrammed handbags, cars with big jungle cat emblems or jewelry in special blue boxes here. These “finer things” are those that require a higher thought, a selfless moment and involve a compassionate gesture. I must admit that I don’t do enough of these things. My lack of effort is compounded by my lack of compassion in other areas of my life. Call this self-judgment or chalk it up to my inane desire to achieve balance in all things, but when I rage about the unimportant and create drama where none is necessary, it steals the luster from my generous efforts. It’s tough to feel good about doing something generous for someone when ten minutes later you want to rage at the guy that slammed his brakes in front of you and made your groceries fly to the floor of the car, ya know? I’m trying, but not hard enough.
What moved me that day was receiving a thank you note (in the mail even) and a gift. The day I collected the handwritten thank you note from my mail box I also found a package from the same person. She had taken the time to thank me for something I did. Then she went to the trouble of purchasing a book that she thought would be meaningful for me. She packaged it up beautifully and got it to an actual post office and mailed it to me. It must have been a total pain and the postage, well, was more than the book. Someone did that for me. I was so incredibly touched.
But you know what touched me more than even the glorious kind words of her note and the WOW book she bought me?? It was the message of it, the subtle gut punch symbol of it all. Symbol: a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.
Now I realize that this goes to state of mind here, but that gaping mouthed moment at the mailbox forced the air from my lungs when the lesson hit me: I could be bringing that kind of amazement and joy to the people in my life, all the time, with very little effort. That’s where the Pay It Forward movement drew its inspiration after all. BUT. I. DON’T. My friend Molly wrote: “I just wanted to return the favor of passing on supportive words.”
It is a rare thing to be thanked, don’t you think? It is so rare that most people do not know how to say “You’re welcome.” We’ve lost the skill! I admit that I am terrible at receiving compliments or thanks without being embarrassed by the attention. Being thanked becomes a finer thing when a person finds a private and touching way to make their feelings known because they feel they need to. Lesson learned. Reminder delivered. (Oh, and I adore the book she sent and replied with a thank you note of my own!)
Having expressed it, we are better for it.
Gratitude is its own reward.
I’m trying harder today, because someone thought to say thank you to me.
Gratitude is contagious.
Just say “Thank you” to the person who gets the door for you when your hands are full, or “How are you?” to the barista that makes your coffee each day. It is a finer thing still to make a gesture, in this time when we are too busy to hear our children ask us to read to them, and forget to wish our friends Happy Birthday even after Facebook reminds us six times (guilty). I would love to hear your stories about the finer things in your life. Shoot me a note. Seriously—firstname.lastname@example.org
The gestures. The learnings. The guilt. The glow of gratitude. I’m even thinking about starting a blog of mini gratitude memoirs (I’ll be twisting the arms of Lara Heacock, our fearless leader in all things kindness, to help) – vignettes of what I can do better to say thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, I see you.
We know how good it feels, right? So can’t we all go one step farther to make an impression, to leave an impact? Isn’t touching each other what we are on the planet for? Express your gratitude because it is the giving of thanks that swells our heart more than even the receiving of it.