As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been thinking about the many things for which I am thankful. My list is pretty typical, and I don’t usually do more than just reflect on my blessings. But could we do more than just reflect? What if we tried showing our gratitude for our blessings?
Several years ago I read an article about gratitude in the Parade magazine that comes in the newspaper. John Kralik shared some experiences from his endeavor to write a thank you note to a different person every day for a year. His project transformed his life. He was able to see how people had blessed his life and as he expressed his gratitude, his blessings seemed to multiply. Kralik also found that others began expressing their thanks to him.
I liked this article so much that I read the book Kralik wrote about his experience, “A Simple Act of Gratitude,” and I began incorporating the article into my writing classes. We will read through the article and then I have my students write thank-you notes following the suggestions Kralik provides.
His first suggestion is to “grab a pen and paper” since “handwritten notes feel special, almost like the person is there with you.” Next, Kralik counsels “be specific.” Mention what you are thankful for and give a reason explaining why. After thanking close friends and family, Kralik suggests you “dig into the past” to find people who may have helped you “at critical moments.” For example, Kralik wrote to a doctor that told him he needed to stop drinking. Kralik’s final suggestion is to “keep it short.” Your thank-you note doesn’t need to be long. Kralik feels that by writing just a few lines “you keep the focus on your thank you and the other person’s kindness.”
Occasionally, a student will write one of their thank you notes to me. This makes my day and helps me realize that what I do is appreciated. Take time to thank those people that help you directly but don’t forget those whose help may be less obvious. For example, my boys were all involved in Boy Scouts, and their Scout leaders were obvious people to thank. I also realized I should thank these leaders’ families for being supportive of the leaders spending time with my boys.
Another way we can show our gratitude is to share some of our blessings with others. We can do this by donating to food drives, charities or other worthy causes. I prefer to give away extra clothes or things instead of trying to sell them at a garage sale, as I have been the recipient of someone else’s desire to share. Just recently I saw a friend post pictures on Facebook of some bikes she was giving away since her kids had outgrown them. One was a bike another family had given to my children that I had subsequently given to my friend when my children outgrew it. I was happy to see that this bicycle was being shared again.
Random acts of kindness such as buying coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks, leaving a $5 bill on someone’s windshield, holding the door for someone or just smiling are additional ways to demonstrate gratitude. You could also spend time with the people who are on your list of blessings to show them that you are thankful they are a part of your life. If distance makes this difficult, try calling these people. I know I enjoy the chance to catch up with friends and family who live far away.
So this Thanksgiving, do more than just make a list of the things you are thankful for. Show your gratitude by writing a few thank you notes and by sharing your blessings with others.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.